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HY MTTHW LC!

Why do radio stations have those consonant-filled names, like KQVO or KFMB? And why is there a disproportionate amount of the letter K?

-- VWL-HNGRY IN NRML HGHTS

THR R 5 VWLS ND 21 CNSNNTS. When you dip into the alphabet, odds are you'll come up with a non-vowel. But it's actually a little more complicated than that. Since the 1920s all radio broadcast stations have had to identify themselves with three- or four-letter call signs. At least once an hour they have to broadcast those signs. A worldwide system was set up to divide the alphabet among countries; the US got N, K, W, and a share of A.(Canada got C, Mexico got X.) That meant all U.S.-related broadcasters had to use one of those letters as the first letter in their call sign. N went to the navy, A went to the army and air force, and K and W went to everybody else (commercial broadcasters, amateur radio operators). W was reserved for stations east of the Mississippi, K for the West (KDKA is Pittsburgh, PA, is one of the few clinkers in that system). The FCC gave commercial broadcasters the right to select the other two or three letters that made up their whole call sign. Rather than picking any old letters, when it was possible, stations picked memorable or meaningful designators. WNBC was the National Broadcasting Company's choice. WGN in Chicago was owned by a newspaper, so their letters stood for "World's Greatest Newspaper." A religious station in Kentucky picked WMTC, "Win Men to Christ."

There are more than 2000 stations in the U.S., so eventually you're going to run out of available combinations. POP and WOW and JOY and all the good words with vowels are probably going to go pretty fast. And you can make longer words by omitting vowels, which our brains tend to fill in automatically. KHRT certainly could stand for KHEART. So that's the story of all the Konsonants.

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