Do that crazy ham jive!  The language that hams use on the air when communicating with each other probably sounds like foreign language to the uninformed listener.  Sure, you can make out all of the words, but much of it doesn't make any sense.  That's because a lot of it is slang, or a jargon of sorts.  This page is set up to get you fluent in "ham jive":

"73": You say "seventy-three" to give another ham "best regards" when ending a voice communication.

"88": You can say "eighty-eight" to give regards to someone VERY close to you, like your spouse, at the end of a transmission.  Be careful how you use this one - don't randomly replace "73" with "88"; people might start to wonder about you.

"5 x 9": An RST signal report, indicating that you are receiving a fellow ham's signal "loud and clear."

"Band Opening": A band opening takes place when atmospheric conditions change to allow enhanced propagation.  It's usually a rare occurrence, but you may be able to pick up hams for tens to hundreds of miles further than you are used to on a given band.

"Base": The word "base" indicates a ham station that is set up "permanently", as in one can be operating from his base station at home.

"Boat Anchor": I hope that you won't be using this term to refer to your own equipment.  Boat anchors are ham radios that don't' work, and long ago if you had a boat anchor, it was huge and heavy enough to be used as an anchor.

"Closed": A closed repeater is allowed to be used only by a certain group of people; more than likely this is a local ham club that paid to have it set up and maintained. (see also "open repeater").

"CQ": About as close to broadcasting as a ham is supposed to get.  If you find a clean frequency and want to see if anybody is out there, you can call CQ to find out.

"CW": Another name for Morse code transmissions.

"Destinated": Use on mobile to close a communication to let someone know that you have arrived at your destination.

"Double": Two hams "double" when they transmit on the same frequency at the same time.

"DX": Making long distant communication contacts, a term usually applied when referring to a contact made in a foreign country.

"Elmer": A term used for a mentor that helps you along the way in getting your ham radio license.  Highly recommended.

"Footprint": This is a visual description of the transmitting propagation of a particular antenna.  To see a footprint drawn out on a map, it would just be a boundary depicting the area that the antenna covers.

"Full quieting": Another term used to let somebody know that their signal is coming in strong with little or no interference.

"Handie-talkie": A hand-held ham station, which resembles a common walkie-talkie or cellular phone.  Official FCC designation is as a "portable" radio device.  Abbreviated: "HT".

"Homebrew": When you hear a ham mention homebrew, he is probably not talking about beer, but station equipment that was he constructed from a kit, or even from a design that came out of that genius imagination of his.  That's where ham science meets art.

"Landline": A hardwire phone connection.

"Mobile": A ham station designed for automobile operation; these units closely resemble CB radios.   The term "mobile" can also used in conjunction with a call sign to convey that the user is operating on a mobile station (i.e. "XX5XXX mobile")

"Net": A net is a regular on-the-air get-together of hams every so often.  Nets typically are comprised of people in local areas, but can cover huge distances when using lower frequencies.  Most nets take role calls, discuss club business and items of interest, and introduce new members.  When you get your ticket, find a net in your area and meet some hams.

"Open": An open repeater is one that is set up for just about anybody to use, even the autopatch, if it has that capability.

"Q Signals": Originated back in the early days of Morse code as a form of radio "shorthand."  But some are even used today in voice communications.   Here are some of the more common Q-signals used:

  • "QRL": Used in CW to ask any listening parties if a frequency is being used before transmitting.
  • "QRS": Used in CW to say "send more slowly"
  • "QRZ": A call to someone asking if they are sending you a message in CW.
  • "QSL": An established contact between two amateur radio enthusiasts.
  • "QSO": A communication (in any mode) between two amateurs.
  • "QSY": A signal to a receiver to change frequencies.
  • "QTH": The location of a ham.

"QSL Cards": Cards that are exchanged between hams to verify that communication has been established between the two.

"Ragchewing": The ham term for shooting the breeze with a fellow ham - not talking about anything particularly important.

"Rig": The term used in reference to any ham's station, whether it be base, mobile, or hand-held.

"Secure": Used to indicate that a ham is about to shut down and close communications (I believe that this was originated from military terminology).

"Shack": Any place where a ham has his/her base station set up to operate from.

"Silent Key": A term used to refer to a ham who has passed on from this life to the next.

"Ticket": You've probably already figured out that this is what a ham refers to as his or her operating license.

"Traffic": A term usually used to indicate that a ham has a message or pertinent information to deliver.

"Working": Don't be scared off by this term.  There's not a lot of work in hobby ham radio.   "Working" is a term used to describe communicating on a certain band or with a contact in a specific region. 

"YL": The young ladies of all ages who are licensed ham radio operators.


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