In the vast majority of countries, the population of amateur radio operators is predominantly male. In the United States, approximately 15% of amateur radio operators are women. In China, 12% of amateur radio operators are women. The Young Ladies Radio League is an international organization of female amateur radio operators.
A male amateur radio operator can be referred to as an OM, an abbreviation used in Morse code telegraphy for “old man”, regardless of the operator’s age. A female amateur radio operator can be referred to as a YL, from the abbreviation used for “young lady”, regardless of the operator’s age. XYL was once used by amateur radio operators to refer to an unlicensed woman, usually the wife of a male amateur radio operator; today, the term has come to mean any female spouse of an amateur radio operator, licensed or not. Sometimes the wife of a ham operator is called a YF (wife).
Although these codes are derived from English language abbreviations, their use is common among amateur radio operators worldwide. Incidentally, the most common language heard in the HF amateur bands (the bands below 30MHz that support worldwide communications) is English.
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