What is the significance of "k. a. m." and "k. p. m." times in 1910 article?

I’m in the process of posting an old article on my website, Log of a Naval Wireless Telegrapher, which is a chronological review of a day in the life of a land-line telegraph operator working at a U.S. Navy radio (wireless) station in 1910.

One thing has me perplexed – many, but not all, of the hourly times are listed as “k. a. m.” and “k. p. m.” I have no idea what the k. stands for in this context, although it may reflect navy practice. But I can’t find any other examples of this usage, so I was hoping that someone wanting to earn a gold star from Unca Cece could rectify my ignorance.

Also, for extra credit, it would be nice if someone could explain what the S.F. D. means in “It’s sure a relief to get off for a little while. ‘S. F. D.’” And, rhetorically, why expressive sayings such as “Storm is coming and it promises to be a peach with the fuzz removed” have passed from regular usage.

SFD meant “stop for dinner.” Since your peach fuzz statement was rhetorical, the only thing to say is “things change.”

I’m working on the first ones. I may not get done until tomorrow.

BTW(by the way), I found that using Google Book search. http://books.google.com/books?id=6piw00swhgcC&q=telegraph+"sfd"+date:1880-1915&dq=telegraph+"sfd"+date:1880-1915&lr=&num=30&as_brr=0&as_pt=ALLTYPES&pgis=1

Sounds like a book you need to obtain. I have no doubt that you’ll find your “k am and k pm” there also.

Added: looks like you can get it as cheap as $25. from http://www.abebooks.com/servlet/SearchResults?tn=Telegraph+Instructor

Again rhetorically – I want to buy a second copy of this book, because? I also have Frederic L. Meyer’s “Twentieth Century Manual of Railway Commercial and Wireless Telegraphy” (1914, 7th edition), which I endorse as a superior text for anyone contemplating employment as a telegraph operator.

I did miss the “SFD” entry – I had assumed it was a naval term. But neither book has anything on time other than the standard “a.m.” and “p.m.” references. I did learn that for word count purposes both a.m. and p.m. count as a single word in a telegram, although “alright” counts as two words, because it is “improperly combined”.

I’ve posted your question on a Ham board I belong to. If anyone will know, it’ll be those old Morse jockeys who’ve been around since the days of spark-gap transmitters.

In the log, it reads like it’s just short for “O’Clock”.

An idea I had, which I’ll throw out only in case it rings a bell with someone, is that the “k” meant it was a standard time (standard telegraph time?), as opposed to local Sun time (or vice versa).

It’s interesting that the k. a. ms and k. p. ms only occur at the very top of the hour, but not at the top of every hour–occasionally it’s just 8:00 a. m.

My WAG is that it indicates some kind of obligatory hourly log entry, perhaps not entered at that precise time, but close to it.

My first thought was that it was referring to time zone K, but that appears to be mostly Australia and parts of Asia, not what I would expect as the standard for an American naval officer (unless the naval station in question was thereabouts?).

Everything in the article suggests a location along the Northeast U.S. coast, including the storm warning for “Delaware Breakwater to Eastport, [Maine]”, and hearing transmissions from stations located at South Wellfleet, Massachusetts and Atlantic City, New Jersey.

Well, I managed to find an entry using Google Books. It was in a train accident report from 1909. I still don’t have a clue what they meant. I wonder if “k” meant either “exactly” or “about.” Edited: now I wonder if it meant something like “no later than…”

This was from http://books.google.com/books?id=pDUpAAAAYAAJ&pg=PT358&dq="4+k+a.m."&lr=&num=50&as_brr=1&as_pt=ALLTYPES

I have a new theory, no more definite that the last. Again, using Google Books


My new thought is that it means “local time.” That was a big deal in those days with trains. Local time wasn’t always related to standard time as we know it today.

Of course, that wouldn’t have much baring on the Naval telegrapher on a ship I guess. And, if it did, why did he use “k” sometimes and not others.

Well, two more cites, Google Books.

From http://books.google.com/books?id=uJSRAAAAMAAJ&pg=RA2-PA967&dq="7+k+p.m."+date:1905-

Also, from The Railroad Telegrapher http://books.google.com/books?id=A3cWAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA1225&dq="8+k+p.m."+date:1905-1915&lr=&num=50&as_brr=1&as_pt=ALLTYPES

Well, one last one, I promise.

“K” simply meant “o’clock.” Really.


Text Book for Station Agents and Telegraphers.

In the current Navy, L (Lima) is used for “Local” time, and Z (Zulu) is used for UTC (which is very close to GMT): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coordinated_Universal_Time

My final answer:

K stands for “o’clock” in telegraph language.

Sparked by samclem’s robust research talents, I checked my books again and there it was:

(This doesn’t seem to have been a universal abbreviation, as a sample press message in “The Twentieth Century Manual of Telegraphy” uses “oc” for o’clock.)

I wonder if one hundred years from now someone reviewing a post on this message boards will be saying "‘Send pie.’ Why would they be saying ‘send pie?’’’

Hats off to samclem. He rarely if ever lets a word get away from him!