CQ CQ CQ this is WA6OHP Whiskey Alpha Six Oscar Hotel Papa WA6OHP. Over and over that phrase would be repeated in my home and while we lived in a mobile home (1965 to 1969) that place in the home was the living room. My oldest daughter knew the phrase well at two years of age and when we got a cat she felt the appropriate name for her would be CQ and that it was for as long as we had that cat.
Did you ever wonder how those two letters were chosen to mean ‘calling any station’?
Most, if not all, who are reading this post know it originated with Morse code and was brought over into voice when that mode became available. Before SOS was used CQD was the recognized wireless call for distress. The Titanic transmitted its distress message by calling CQD DE MGY (the Titanic’s call sign was MGY) though it shouldn’t have because by 1908 SOS was the standard international distress call and the Titanic sank in 1912. DE was used to mean “this is” because the French word “de” means “from or this is” and in the United Kingdom French was, and still is, the official language for international postal service. The postal service in the UK and many other European countries operated the telegraph offices. Remember most of the wireless telegraph operators at that time were former wire telegraphers.
The French word which is equivalent to the English ‘safety’ is sécurité. When the two letters CQ are spoken they sound similar the first two syllables in sécurité. CQ was first used by the United Kingdom landline telegraphers as a telegraph shorthand to mean “pay attention everyone I have something important to say to all.”
Operators from the United States and some other English speaking countries thought it meant “seek you” and there were some a few who thought CQD meant ‘come quickly distress’ but the European operators knew what it really meant. 1912 CQ meaning “all stations” became internationally accepted.
While CQ is inappropriate to use on a repeater it still can be used in other applications. There is an accepted procedure when calling CQ. Calling CQ on and on 10 to 20 times before giving the appropriate call sign is not that accepted procedure.
Normally it is advised to call CQ three times followed by giving your call sign three times and then repeat this two more times. The opening line of this post illustrates this when using voice communications. By following this procedure it gives the opportunity for stations tuning the band looking for a QSO to find you, set their equipment on your frequency in preparation to answer. Long drawn out CQ calls will sometimes result in stations leaving and looking for someone else who is not quite as long winded.
The three CQ followed by three times giving the call sign all being repeated two more times is not a set in stone practice but in most instances is recommended. Sometimes it might be best to abbreviate this by not repeating the whole thing three times.
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