In Which We Keep to the Code

Take what you can, give nothing back!

Those who fall behind are left behind!



Okay, my title isn’t actually referring to the Pirate’s Code. I’m talking about Morse code, y’all.

A friend and I thought it would be just too cool if we knew Morse code. (John Watson from “Sherlock” knows it. ‘Nough said.)

Something like that, yeah.

Something like that, yeah.

So we determined that, by jolly, we would learn! Together! Morse code buddies, for the win! And in about a day-and-a-half, we’d more or less memorized the alphabet*.

* (And not many days after that, we managed to forget most of it due to lack of practice. We are just that quick, y’all.)

This is not a brag post. (Although, I mean, seriously: Go, us!) Rather, I thought I’d share with you the tricks we each used to take on our self-imposed challenge**.

** (And which we can use again, whenever we’re game to buckle down and relearn this stuff.)

1 ( . _ _ _ _ ) = Study the chart. Specifically, this chart, which I found online by simply searching “morse code chart”. (No, I did not bother to capitalize the “m” in “Morse”. No, I am not proud of that fact.)


And for some people, that may have been enough; alphabet memorized. But our brains needed a little more to go on than that.

2 ( . . _ _ _ ) = Look for patterns. This little brainwave was my idea. Taken as a whole, the assignments of dots and dashes look pretty darn random – which I guess is a helpful feature in a successful secret code. But I noticed that many of the letters had mirror images or opposites. Observe.

Mirror images:

A / N = . _ / _ .

B / V = _ . . . / . . . _

D / U = _ . . / . . _

F / L = . . _ . / . _ . .

G / W = _ _ . / . _ _

Q / Y = _ _ . _ / _ . _ _



E /T = . / _

I / M =  . . / _ _

K / R = _ . _ / . _ .

S /O = . . . / _ _ _

P / X = . _ _ . / _ . . _

Visualizing one half of a pair helped me to remember the other, reducing my mental workload significantly.

3 ( . . . _ _ ) = Write it out. Many times. I’ve heard it said by more people than just me that the act of handwriting a thing can help it to stick in the memory. Typing may have a similar effect; I opted for both – handwriting the alphabet according to the mirror/opposites patterns, and typing out strings of sentences so I could get accustomed to using letters as they’re intended (i.e., for words!).

4 ( . . . . _ ) = List the dots ‘n’ dashes alphabet out loud. Of the two of us, my friend is apparently a stronger auditory learner, and so finds this technique more helpful than I do. Unless the information is set to music, I’m not as likely to remember it in the long term. This makes her the one to go to for “Doctor Who” quotes, and me the one to sing you all 80 minutes of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat”.

Between the two of us, we’ll annoy the . _ _ . / . _ / _ . / _ / . . . off of you!

Between the two of us, we’ll annoy the . _ _ . / . _ / _ . / _ / . . . off of you!

5 ( . . . . . ) = Find ways to make individual letters stick out to you. For me, for example, I can easily remember the sequence for R ( . _ . ), because it looks like the emoticon someone might use after I went on a rant about the time my cousin ate the piece of birthday cake with the R from “birthday” on it. (Yes, it was like seventeen years ago. No, I’m not over it. I wanted the R; it was a Ralphie from “The Magic School Bus” thing.)

And V…! You guys, my mind went boom when I out-of-the-blue realized this:

The Morse code sequence for the letter V = . . . _

That is the same rhythmic motif as seen over and over in Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony.

The Roman numeral for 5 = V.

Talk about a composer ahead of his time! ...Even if it was only by a handful of years. X)

Talk about a composer ahead of his time! …Even if it was only by a handful of years. X)

6 ( _ . . . . ) = Do it for fun! Because as we all know, learning new stuff is always easier when it’s fun! …Or when lives are at stake. That kind of motivation may help a bit, too.


Got any tricks you use to help with memorization/learning new things, or fun Morse code facts? . . . / . . . . / . _ / . _ . / . in the comments!


13 thoughts on “In Which We Keep to the Code

  1. That is very cool. Great tips. I have always wanted to know Morse, too, but have never actually tried to learn it. Way to go, girl.

    One question: is there a pause between letters? How do you know someone is saying “v” (…_) and not “st” (… /_)? Is there a Morse version of not enunciating?

    Hmm. That is three questions. But maybe one answer can address them all.

    • Do you know, I had no idea of the answer until you asked me, so I real quick looked it up. According to this source:
      “Morse code requires the time between dits (short pulses) and dahs (long pulses), between letters, and between words to be as accurate as possible.
      A Dit takes – 1 unit of time
      A Dah takes – 3 units of time
      The pause between letters – 3 units of time
      The pause between words – 7 units of time”
      So now we all know! Sincere thanks for forcing the issue, Catherine!

  2. When I was in the Navy, I learned to copy Morse Code using a typewriter (I was already a touch typist), and later on, with pencil and paper. I still remember the callsign of the admiral of the Soviet Mediterranean fleet: ditditdah ditdah ditditditdit dahditdahdah.

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