Mayday

O Great Guru Of Wisdom,
> I am baffled by MAYDAY.
> I know when we are in trouble we sent out an
S O S But if theres a radio
>there we call Mayday.Where does the term come
from and why does it mean
>distaster? Has there been some GREAT distaster
in May that we should know
>about that brought this about?
> Thanks kkaybill

It’s the English equivalent of the French “M’aidez” which means “HELP ME!”

It’s a general question, so moved.

The explanation from Annie-Xmas is supported by the Random House Word Maven: Mayday and The Word Detective on Mayday.

As noted in the Word Detective article, S O S was picked for its easily remembered and recognized pattern, dot dot dot dash dash dash dot dot dot, not for any later-assigned acronym.

It seems unlikely, given that the French for “Help me” would be “Aidez-moi”.

It’s possible that the order of verbs and object pronouns in French was different a couple hundred years ago, but I’ve never heard that that’s the case.

Perhaps it’s “m’aider” (which is pronounced the same as “m’aidez”), as a shorter form of “Venez m’aider”, i.e., “Come and help me”.

That’s more plausible, and etymonline agrees with it.

Aha! I have always had doubts about the “m’aidez” idea but this version makes sense. Good SDMB. :slight_smile:

Aside: The prosign SOS (no spaces) is correctly described for audio transmission as didididahdahdahdididit.

I’m not sure there’s anything that doesn’t remind me of a Red Dwarf quote.

“Why d’you say ‘Mayday?’ It’s only a Bank Holiday. Why not ‘Shrove Tuesday’ or ‘Ascension Sunday?’ Ascension Sunday! Ascension Sunday! The fifteenth Wednesday after Pentecost! The fifteenth Wednesday after Pentecost!”

(Sorry, I’ll stop geeking out now. We now return to your normal and helpful question answering.)