This internationally recognized call for help has long been common parlance, but until today, when I checked the OED listing, I had no idea of its origin.
A 1923 usage listed gives us all we need to know: “Owing to the difficulty of distinguishing the letter ‘S’ by telephone, the international distress signal ‘S.O.S.’ will give place to the words ‘May-day’, the phonetic equivalent of ‘M’aidez’, the French for ‘Help me’.”
Fascinating and perhaps our briefest post yet. Good luck with finals, students!
Have a word or metaphor worth pondering? This blog will continue all summer. Please nominate a word or metaphor useful in academic writing by e-mailing me (jessid -at- richmond -dot- edu) or leaving a comment below.
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