This post is about Jean-Paul Vinay, a Canadian whose work is used worldwide, but most people ho use his work have never heard of him, and credit it vaguely to "the military." He was a linguist, not a member of the armed forces.
In 1950, he founded the department of linguistics at the Université de Montréal where he set up the university's linguistics program as well as courses in translation and interpretation. He served as chairman of the department until 1966. In 1968, he joined the University of Victoria in British Columbia and headed their linguistics department. He retired from the university as Emeritus Professor of Linguistics in 1976.
In 1958, he co-authored Stylistique comparée du français et de l'anglais, a comparative stylistics textbook considered to be a pioneering work in translation pedagogy. The work is recognized internationally, has recently been translated into English and is still used in translation and linguistics courses today. In addition, he was the editor-in-chief for The Canadian Dictionary/Dictionnaire canadien, published by McClelland and Stewart in 1962.
Jean-Paul Vinay is considered to be among those who have profoundly influenced the development of translation in Canada. He died eighteen years ago today, in Victoria, British Columbia on April 10, 1999. Translation style guides are very important in Canada, and people in his field and family probable honour him for those, but that's not the achievement I'm referring to.
He's the guy who designed the ICAO radio phonetic alphabet. His original 1952 version ran Alpha, Bravo, Coca or Coco, Delta, Echo, Foxtrot, Golf, Hotel, India, Juliet, Kilo, Lima, Metro, Nectar, Oscar, Papa, Quebec, Romeo, Sierra, Tango, Union, Victor, Whiskey, Extra or X-extra, Yankee, Zulu.
So yeah, for anyone familiar with today's version: Coco, Metro, Nectar, Union, and Extra are pretty odd. People didn't like them, for various reasons, and we settled into the current version. I found this discussion of the choices of words interesting.
The tendency of infer that because a word may appear “bad” in isolation, either phonetically, structurally or because it is unfamiliar and that its replacement by an apparently “good” word will achieve an improvement, is one to be considered with the utmost caution. The criterion as to whether a word is “good” or “bad” is fundamentally the measure of its success in relation to all the other alphabet words (and with spoken numerals), together with its success for transmission in noise. For example, the word “”FOOTBALL” has a higher articulation score than the present spelling alphabet word “FOXTROT” i.e. it is correctly identified when it is spoken, a greater percentage of the time. “FOXTROT” however, is the preferred word because it is less often erroneously recorded when other words in the spelling alphabet are spoken; therefore, the overall intelligibility of the alphabet is raised by using “foxtrot” rather than “football”.
I wonder what Q would have been had a non-Canadian concocted it.