By Bill Rumbley

If you're a DXer under 45 (all three of you), you probably spend more time thinking about sex than about the abbreviations used for languages in DX bulletins. Once you hit the big 5-0, though, things really start to change. And by the time you hit my age, you can blow entire days just thinking about language abbreviations.

If, like me, you were DXing back in the days when DX bulletins came on papyrus scrolls, you remember the original simple set of language abbreviations used in the shortwave radio hobby. Yes, it used to be that we used plain, if nonsensical, abbreviations for languages. The abbreviation for Spanish was beanetr, for Russian it was cmmy, for French it was frg, for Italian it was wino, cmmy2 for Chinese, etc. Those were the common ones; there were a lot more and most of us would have had a hard time remembering some of them, like bgnse for Hebrew or bvrhggr for Canadian English. (My favorite was always fshbrth for Norwegian.)

Then, in the 1970s, the now defunct Banana Growers Association of North Dakota introduced these modern two-letter abbreviations like EH for English and JS for Japanese. Now, in those days, trying to grow bananas in North Dakota was something many people admired, mostly because of the after-effects of drugs they had taken in the 1960s. So, all the DX Clubs (as well as state agricultural associations), had to jump on the Bismarck bandwagon and adopt the BANANA system. Of course, a few years later the drugs wore off and people realized that the whole idea was as silly as growing bananas in North Dakota*, but we were stuck with these abbreviations.

OK, so then we had about three decades to get used to this new system of two-letter abbreviations and everything was fine. Then what? The BLANDX Board of Directors decides that some of our two letter abbreviations might be insulting to speakers of certain languages (like PU for Portuguese), so they have to modify the system.

According to the new policy of Rotating Politically Correct Language Abbreviations, the abbreviations for a dozen of the most commonly reported languages will rotate by month throughout the year. Thus, if I hear a station broadcasting in French in January and report it, the language abbreviation would be FH. However, hear the same broadcast in February and the abbreviation is SH, then RN in March, CS in April, EH in May, etc. And, while RN may mean French in March, in January it means Russian and in February it means Spanish.

Who designed this system? The same guy that designed the carrousel of bandwidth filters on the original Drake R-8? And, how are DXers my age supposed to remember this stuff? Hello! At least 90% of the DXers I know are just a short F layer hop from senility.

Speaking on behalf of all the old farts in this hobby, I think we need to stop all this change. Changing frequencies on the BBC a couple times a year is about all we can handle. Instead, let's bring back some of our time-honored DXing traditions, if only to make the statement that the hobby is, well, not totally comatose. Hey, it's like our eyelids still flutter occasionally, right?

So, let's all revive our traditions from the past. One of my favorite traditions was sitting alone DXing in my basement at 4 a.m. while drinking strong coffee out of a mug emblazoned with the logo of a Canadian DX club. By 4:30 a.m., I had usually drunk enough coffee to remember that my listening post was on the second floor. Frequently repeated experiences like that are great for male-bonding. That's why I get along with myself so well.

Some may disagree with me. I say, Who cares? I'm more interested in trying to preserve all that is sacred in how we DX.

* I don't know why they thought they could get Canadians to illegally cross the border to pick bananas. Without cheap labor, they were bound to fail. And, none of the Canadians I've met have the right temperment for picking bananas. They're more interested in trying to sell you a coffee mug. Or asking if you want to hug their beaver.