As vowels have various pronunciation in English, when spelling out a word (for example: A93B4J), should I use a word that starts by the vowel in the same (don't know how to name this, long or short pronunciation)

For example:

  • A as in Age

  • A as in Apartment

Should I use the first one? The second? Whichever?

closed as unclear what you're asking by TimLymington, Andrew Leach, RegDwigнt Jun 28 '13 at 12:50

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    A93B4J is not a word, which mwould make the question unanswerable even if there weere no other problems. Please do some more research and edit the question. – TimLymington Jun 28 '13 at 12:13
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    It's unclear to me what you are actually asking. When spelling Italian words, Italians will say the letter then followed by an Italian city. For example; A as in Ancona, B as in Bari, C as in Como, etc. Is that what you are asking? In that case, Andrew Leach's 2nd link provides you with the answer. – Mari-Lou A Jun 28 '13 at 12:35
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    I think (I think!) the actual question here is that the a in age is an /eɪ/, while the a in apartment is a schwa. But it is quite hard to be sure if that's what you're asking. What do you even mean by "the same tense"? Vowels do not have tenses, neither do nouns. Please clarify. – RegDwigнt Jun 28 '13 at 12:55
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    I think the question is: "Are letters pronounced according to their sound, and if so, which sound; or do they have names?" Young children can spell the alphabet /æ/ /bə/ /kə/ /də/... whereas most people use /eɪ/ /bi:/ /si:/ /di:/... – Andrew Leach Jun 28 '13 at 13:12

For lists of letters, the easy accepted informal way is to just say out the letter names in order.

Over a poor communication medium, like a bad cellphone, sometimes letters get confused. So there is a pattern of saying, as you say, a letter followed by a word that starts with that letter.

Informally, there is no general corresponding set of words to letters, one just picks one at random. A common way to say it is:

A as in Apple, B as in Boy

(patterned after children's alphabet learning books).

There is a tendency to use people's names though, for example:

A as in Adam, B as in Barbara, C as in Charles...

(notice that the sound doesn't have to match)

But that's informally. In formal situations, like the military, there is a prescribed mapping of letters to words:

A as in Alpha, B as in Bravo, C as in Charlie

This is the NATO phonetic chart. (there are others but this is the most widely used in the US).

Your question seems to focus on vowels, but in these methods there is nothing special about vowels.

  • But my question is, do you use Adam always, even when you are referring to a single A (/eɪ/)? – yzT Jun 28 '13 at 13:04
  • @yzT Why would we call the letter a an “Adam”? It isn’t. It’s an a. – tchrist Jun 28 '13 at 13:31
  • The NATO phonetic alphabet (also seen in a different Wikipedia article linked by @AndrewLeach above) is also widely used in the UK, and also 'officially' used by, e.g., various emergency services, such as the police. – TrevorD Jun 28 '13 at 13:40
  • However, if I were to say "yzT" then I would use /waɪ/ /zed/ /ti:/ – Andrew Leach Jun 28 '13 at 14:02
  • @yzT: My wording implies that answer...I said '"there is a tendency". That means that people don't always use Adam (or Apple) but those are very common. Also, implied by "the sound doesn't have to match", when spelling out the word "Aria" the sounds of the two a's are not the same as the sound of the name of the letter 'a'. – Mitch Jun 28 '13 at 15:32

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