Nobody can spell tinotopia, it seems. I find myself giving out my e-mail address over the phone from time to time, and while you’d think that tinotopia would be easy to understand, the truth is, apparently, that it isn’t.
To begin with, for some reason most people really, really want to think that it’s tinopia. And then they don’t actually listen when I spell it. I prepare them for it. I tell them that it’s a nine-letter word, beginning with Tino just like my first name, and ending with topia from the Greek topos meaning place, just like in utopia. I then spell the word: T-I-N-O-T-O-P-I-A. They then read back ‘tintopia’ or worse. Usually several times before getting it right. Not infrequently, I have to resort to having them confirm every single letter before I give them the next one.
Aviation people are even worse. They’re just as bad at everyone else at spelling tinotopia, but they want to use the phonetic alphabet.
The purpose of the phonetic alphabet is to introduce redundancy into the communication when you’re spelling something, or specifying individual letters, over a noisy channel like the radio in an airplane. If you’re sitting at a particularly hairy intersection of taxiways labelled ‘B’, ‘C’, D’, and ‘E’, for instance, and the controller tells you to proceed on taxiway ‘Dee’, there’s a pretty good chance that you’re not going to have any idea which taxiway he wants you to use. So he’ll say ‘Delta’ instead, or ‘Bravo’, or ‘Charlie’, or ‘Echo’.
This sometimes is useful on the phone (plenty of people out there think that ‘tinopopia’ — the land where Tino is Pope, presumably — is a likely option), but when you try it with someone who’d not familiar with the phonetic alphabet, it just creates chaos because they’ll write down tangoindianovemberoscartangoscarpapaindiaalpha.com.
In the case of people familiar with the alphabet, it just results in it taking longer for them to write down ‘tinopia’.