HAM Radio 101

What is a “The Wouff-Hong?”

In honor of Halloween, our Word of the Day features an object designed to strike terror in the hearts of any amateur operator who ever called CQ. Of course we’re talking about the dreaded Wouff-Hong!

On page 11 of the 1930 Radio Amateur’s Handbook, it reads: “The Wouff-Hong is amateur radio’s most sacred symbol and stands for the enforcement of law and order in amateur operation.”

The origins of the Wouff-Hong can be traced back to none other than Hiram Percy Maxim, W1AW (see Word of the Day, October 10), co-founder of the ARRL and regular contributor to QST magazine, where he wrote the column, “Rotten Radio” using the pseudonym “The Old Man,” or sometimes simply “T.O.M.” Employing a great deal of Swiftian satire, his writing targeted poor operators and the babble he often heard on the air. In one example, he overheard an operator say a nonsensical abbreviation resembling “wouff hong.” He later used the term Wouff-Hong to refer to a make-believe piece of Ham Radio equipment used to keep bad operators in line—a tongue-in-cheek warning to the Amateur Radio community of the importance of always using best practices when on the air. A picture of the Wouff-Hong—two pieces of wood strapped together with wire (kind of like a junior high school woodshop project cobbled together the morning it was due)—appeared in a QST article T.O.M. penned in 1919.

Wouff-Hongs were given away at ARRL conventions back in the 1930s. Today, they are much-sought-after and pricey objects sold at auction. Shrouded in mystery (and filled with loads of good humor), Wouff-Hong ceremonies are often held at Hamfests. The ritual involves specific costumed characters  (The Old Man, HiPotential, QRM, QRN, and Xtal) and, according to ARRL’s Hamfest Planner, lots of rehearsing.

The planner reads, “Any ARRL-approved State, Division or National Convention is eligible to put on the traditional initiation into the Royal Order of the Wouff Hong. This event can be one of the highlights of a new ham’s experiences.”

Don’t bother asking a an experienced Ham for details about the ceremony. They have been sworn to secrecy. 

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