I am fascinated by the origins of words or phrases we use or hear in every day life but take for granted. I hope to post more writing in the future. I am also open to suggestions! The word, being that it is May 1st is Mayday, but the distress call, not the holiday (aka Beltane).
Anyone who has watched older WWII related movies has heard Mayday! being used when there is trouble. It is used primarily with aviators and mariners, but in some cases firefighters and police use it. Conventionally, the word is repeated three times when an emergency occurs. The repetition is to prevent it being mistaken from similar sounding phrases and to distinguish it from an actual distress call (as opposed to someone referring to a mayday call)
The term "mayday" was conceived as a distress call in the early 1920s by Frederick Stanley Mockford, officer-in-charge of radio at Croydon Airport, London. Most of the air traffic at the time was between Croydon and Le Bourget Airport in Paris. Mockford proposed the term "mayday," which is the phonetic equivalent of the French m'aidez ("help me") or m'aider (a shortened form of venez m'aider "come and help me").
The procedure word was officially adopted by the International Radiotelegraph Convention of Washington as a distress call. The previous distress call "SOS" was derived from Morse Code, but was unsuitable for radio or telephone calls due the the difficulty of distinguishing the "S" in voice communication at the time.