Yes, you could shout Mayday today. It’s a day in May.

Technically, you should have done it yesterday, since May Day has been a holiday in a number of European countries for years.

But that word, known all over the place as the international distress call, does not, in fact, refer to a day in the month of May.

So what does it refer to?

HowStuffWorks explained the backstory in 2023.

It starts in the aftermath of World War I.

That’s when air traffic was growing rapidly and pilots were using their radios to communicate with the authorities on land.

These pilots could have stuck with another well-known distress call, SOS, but they realized that when using radio instead of Morse code, the letter S as in “stroke of bad luck” could be mistaken for the letter F as in “fiasco.”

Because a lot of air traffic was flowing between the UK and France, they settled on using the term “mayday,” which was an English adaptation of the French “m’aider,” for “help me.”

According to the Times of London, the crew of an actual Royal Air Force plane tested out the signal in 1923, when the plane’s engines failed over the English Channel.

And it worked: the radio operators received the distress call and sent help.

“Mayday” has been an official radio distress signal in the US since 1927.

In a life-threatening emergency, those aboard a plane or a ship are supposed to repeat the word “mayday” three times, to make sure it’s heard.

Then they’re supposed to deliver vital information such as location and what kind of emergency they’re having in a specific order.

It goes without saying that it’s very illegal to send out one of these distress calls when it’s not a life or death emergency.

If you’re in a difficult situation that requires help or a rescue but there aren’t any lives in imminent danger, like, say, if your boat is lost in the fog, you radio in with the word “Pan-Pan.”

That’s a term I’m pretty sure won’t be mistaken for the name of a month.

This weekend in Las Cruces, it’s the 2024 New Mexico Tamale Fest.

At least a half dozen food trucks will be on hand, offering tamale samples and full plates, as well as bulk tamale sales.

I think I’ll take like 20 of each, please?

Why Is ‘Mayday’ the International Distress Call? (How Stuff Works)

The 2024 New Mexico Tamale Fest at Plaza De Las Cruces! (Cinco De Mayo) 

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Photo by Earl via Flickr/Creative Commons