What Does the Distress Signal “SOS,” Stand for?
A lot of people think that the distress signal is an abbreviation for “save our souls” or “save our ship.” But in reality, “SOS” is not an abbreviation for anything. It is used as a radio code call for help from a ship in distress. An SOS is an easy signal to send. The signal consists of three dots, three dashes, and three more dots.
The radio operator at a coast guard station listens for radio signals from ships at sea. If the coast guard hears an SOS, he knows that a ship is in trouble. After receiving an SOS, the coast guard tries to talk to the radio operator on the ship to find out the ship’s location and what the problem is. The coast guard ships can then speed to the rescue.
“SOS” was selected as a distress signal by the International Radio Telegraphic Convention at London in 1912. It is expressed in Morse code and was chosen not because it refers to any words, but because it is easy to transmit. SOS is the only nine-element signal in Morse code, making it more easily recognizable, as no other symbol uses more than eight elements.