Origin of the Word Roger
From the very beginning of aviation, communication between ground staff and pilots played a key role in the safe flying of an aircraft. In fact, each and every information shared by the two ends can be crucial, and a single, apparently casual information, may save the lives of both the aviation personnel and the passengers. Today, the aviation communication may seem to be a very simple task, but during the early stage, it was one of the most complicated jobs to perform.
In the beginning, visual aids like colored paddles, signal flares, and hand signs were used as a medium of communication. However, the first air-to-surface radio communication started with the use of Morse code and in order to save time, the operators used short signals.
During the days, when messages were sent through telegraphs in Morse code, the letter “R” was used as one of those short signals, as an abbreviation for the word “Received.” It signified the confirmation of the pilots regarding the receipt of the message containing the instructions. In the Morse code days, when sending long messages could be stiff and tedious, a useful shorthand was used with single, meaningful letters. As and when a message is responded with the letter “R’, the sender is automatically assured about the receipt of the message at the other end.However, when two-way radio came along, the shorthand continued, but with the word "Roger" instead of "R" itself.
Aviation communication has a fascinating history. While going through a fiction or watching a movie, we often find a situation, when, during a flight, the pilot uses the word “Roger.” However, why the pilots use that particular word and what is the implication of it, is a million dollar question. In fact, as and when the pilots stopped using the “Morse” code and switched to voice operation, they started to use the word “Roger,” the phonetic designation for the letter “R,” denoting the abbreviation for “received.”
In 1927, the word “Roger” was officially designated to represent ‘R’, as part of the first phonetic alphabet, developed by the International Telegraph Union and the term became part of the international ‘aviation language.’ It is said that, since everyone is not proficient in English, ‘Roger’ was preferred over ‘Received’.
It is interesting to note that, apart from the alphabet ’R’, the British and American military also used the following phonetic alphabets during World War II:
“Able, Baker, Charlie, Dog, Easy, Fox, George, How, Item, Jig, King, Love, Mike, Nan, Oboe, Peter, Queen, Roger, Sugar, Tare, Uncle, Victor, William, X-ray, Yoke, Zebra.”
However, in 1957, ‘Roger’ was replaced by ‘Romeo’, but by that time “Roger” was already synonymous with ‘received’. Today, ‘Romeo’ is adopted worldwide as a part of the phonetic alphabet, along with : “Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, Delta, Echo, Foxtrot, Golf, Hotel, India, Juliet, Kilo, Lima, Mike, November, Oscar, Papa, Quebec, Romeo, Sierra, Tango, Uniform, Victor, Whiskey, X-Ray, Yankee, Zulu.”