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The Wouff-Hong and Rettysnitch Legends

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Amateur Radio's traditional and most sacred symbols

Two gruesome instruments of excruciating torture used to
enforce law, order, and decency in Amateur Radio operation.,

The Wouff-Hong and Rettysnitch Legends

By Rob L. Dey, KA2BEO1 - September 1997

A wonderful article about these two legends was written by L.B. Cebik, W4RNL2, and appeared in September 1996 QST, on pages 59 and 603. Cebik offered that "We should not be troubled by the size of the task at hand: Curing Amateur Radio of its illegalities and indecencies. We have many more folks available to wield the Wouff-Hong and the Rettysnitch. No, not on others, but on ourselves - to make sure that we set a model for how amateur operations ought to be conducted."

The Wouff-Hong

The Wouff-Hong
The Wouff-Hong is used to enforce law and order in Amateur Radio operating work.

"The Old Man" (T.O.M.), originator of the Wouff-Hong and the Rettysnitch, is known to be the one and only Hiram Percy Maxim, W1AW, founder of the American Radio Relay League (ARRL)4 in 1914. T.O.M. wrote his first mention of a Wouff-Hong and a Rettysnitch in 1917. In 1919, the league received an actual Wouff-Hong specimen directly from T.O.M. The first photo of the Wouff-Hong was published in July 1919 QST.

The Rettysnitch

The Rettysnitch
The Rettysnitch is used to enforce decency in Amateur Radio operating work.

In 1921, the Washington DC Radio Club presented the Rettysnitch to the league's traffic manager. According to legend, the club received the Rettysnitch specimen from "The Old Man" himself. Cebik stated that "Even at its first public appearance, two of its teeth were missing, suggesting a long history of necessary and effective use. However, to this day, the Rettysnitch has lost no further teeth. It was ordered to be displayed by its mate." The Wouff-Hong and Rettysnitch stories were retold by Rufus P. Turner, when he wrote "Hamdom's Traditions: A Bedtime Story for Young Squirts" in May 1934 QST. According to Cebik, "In 1930, The ARRL Handbook had pictures of both instruments of enforcement. By 1936, only the Wouff-Hong appeared. By 1947 the Handbook had deleted both photos." An editorial on the Wouff-Hong (without the hyphen) appeared many years later in February 1961 QST. Presently, both of these legendary instruments are on display at the ARRL museum in Newington, CT.

Do the Wouff-Hong and Rettysnitch still hold their mystical power over us today?

L.B. Cebik, W4RNL, answered this question well, when he asked "Why were the Wouff-Hong and the Rettysnitch so powerful to those early hams? Because those hams cared about Amateur Radio in their hearts. They desired that which they knew they could never have: A perfectly law-abiding, decent radio service that would inspire young and old alike to become hams or, lacking the inclination to electronics, to become admirers of hams. Every minute of on-the-air time was a chance to show how noble a pursuit Amateur Radio was and should always be. They feared the Wouff-Hong and the Rettysnitch as instruments of their own consciences, as they strove to meet the standards they set for themselves. And that is where you will find the Wouff-Hong and the Rettysnitch today - deep in your own conscience. If they seem to hold no power, then you know itís time once more to elevate your standards a notch higher, and then to strive to achieve them perfectly." He added, "May you never deserve their sting."

1Rob L. Dey, KA2BEO, P.O. Box 1849, Point Pleasant, NJ 08742-1849, e-mail:
2L.B. Cebik, W4RNL, 1434 High Mesa Dr., Knoxville, TN 37938-4443, e-mail:
3This article originally appeared in the New England QRP Newsletter, edited by Dennis Marandos, K1LGQ.
4The American Radio Relay League, 225 Main St., Newington, CT 06111-1494, e-mail:

Research text above courtesy Rob Dey of NATRADIOCO

Wouff Hongs Unearthed

By Jim Maxwell, W6CF
April 1, 2002

It's that time of year again when a ham's fancy turns to...gardening? This normally respectable ARRL official reports an unusual crop.

We all know that The Old Man (Hiram Percy Maxim) was the discoverer of the Wouff Hong. Its history has been reported in QST on a number of occasions. So, we know where it came from, but we have never known--until now--exactly what it is. Is it animal, vegetable, or mineral? The original Wouff Hong, on display at ARRL HQ in Newington, Connecticut, seems to be made of some fibrous material, unquestionably vegetable. Wood? A root? What? The answer is surprising--it's not only vegetable material, it is a vegetable.

Several years ago while fishing in the McKenzie River in central Oregon--with Wolf Laskowski, KD6WUZ--my line caught a snag. At first I thought it might be an old root or perhaps an old decayed log. It took several minutes to get the material to shore. When it was safely out of the water we were absolutely astounded to note that it was a perfectly formed Wouff Hong! Where did it come from? Why was it there? We rummaged through the thick foliage growing along the river bank, and within only a few minutes found another one. It was firmly rooted in the ground, but seemed to have shed some seeds, shaped like miniature Wouff Hongs. The rich soil of the valley and the high water content of the soil, only a few feet from the rushing water of the McKenzie River, seemed to provide ideal growing conditions for the Wouff Hong.

KD6WUZ cultivating Wouff Hongs

Wolf Laskowski, KD6WUZ, is cultivating our Hong garden. The health and vigor of the many plants is obvious. [Photos by the author]

Of course we had to test our theory that the McKenzie River Valley is ideal for growing Wouff Hongs. In spring 2001 we took a portion of the small number of seeds we had found and planted them in a small plot only a few dozen feet from the river. We're happy to report that the first crop did very well indeed. It took work, however, for they require regular attention to make certain that they grow in a near weed-free environment. In the last photo the Hongs have been washed and laid out to dry. We managed to get 23 good ones this first time around.

Wouff Hongs are rare and very expensive. They are auctioned on the eBay Web site from time to time, and always bring very high prices. This is a pity, for the many beneficial effects of Wouff Hongs are well known: when used properly, they reduce interference, improve propagation, and can be used to punish those who misuse our bands. With this new discovery, it's clear that there is no need for Wouff Hongs to be the rare items they have been for many years. We intend to make Wouff Hongs as ubiquitous as hand-held radios, for we believe that every ham who wants one should be able to obtain one, and at a reasonable price. Consistent with that belief, we're presently clearing land in the McKenzie River Valley for our Wouff Hong farm. Soon every deserving ham will have an opportunity to obtain one. All profits will go to the ARRL Foundation.

W6CF and KC6NAX bringing in the sheaves, er, Wouffs.

Jim, W6CF, and XYL Trudy, KC6NAX, harvesting their first crop.

Wouff Hongs laid out to dry.

The Hongs have been washed and laid out to dry. Jim and Trudy managed to get 23 good ones this first time around.

ARRL Pacific Division Director Jim Maxwell, W6CF, lives near Santa Cruz, California. He has written several articles for QST from 1977 to present. Maxwell holds a DXCC certificate with 367 entities credited and has earned the WAS and A-1 Operator certificates. He can be reached at


The Wouff Hong Tree (Adult, Wild escapee found!!)

Wouff Hong tree Karl J. Kasel, WB0BMY, of Vista, California, writes: I was walking through Stanley Park in Vancouver (British Columbia) while on vacation this summer when I noticed "something" about the forest of trees around me. A great many of them are trimmed to remind all good operators of the OM's ("The Old Man," Hiram Percy Maxim, W1AW--Ed) implement of correction to be applied to poor operators!" That "implement of correction," of course, was the dreaded Wouff Hong. Kasel suggests that HPM would approve of the tree-pruning practices in Vancouver. And, he adds: "VE-land operators are some of the most helpful I have encountered." We're not sure if there's a connection, however.--Karl J. Kasel, WB0BMY

Courtesy ARRL



Ugerumf! No, this is not the sound you make when you try to pick that boatanchor you just bought off the hamfest table. We've all heard of the wouff hong; most know of the rettysnitch, but fewer still may be familiar with the ugerumf. This mysterious object was made shortly after ARRL co-founder Hiram Percy Maxim wrote his "Rotten QRM" article back in 1917 (the original editorial was reprinted in the December 1940 QST). Whether the device was symbolic of QRM in those days or was supposed to cure its evils is something left to the imagination, although strong hints were given by "The Old Man." The words "ugerumf" and "rettysnitch" allegedly appeared in CW poorly sent by what "The Old Man" called "a poor gink." The evil-looking ugerumf is on display at ARRL Headquarters in the same cabinet with the wouff hong and the rettysnitch.

Courtesy ARRL

&@*$# Rotten Radio 2007 &@*$#

by T_O_M™

  1. 73's -- There ain't NO "s" in "73", Lids!! -- 73 IS plural ALREADY!! -- 10-4, Good Buddy?

  2. Courtesy -- There AIN'T none!! -- Tune yer antenna OFF that Net or Rare DX guy's Frequency!

  3. NO-CODE-LICENSES -- There goes the neighborhood -- Condx get bad? -- We been HAD!! *

  4. DX Clusters -- Home of the 12-second QSO!!! -- WHAT have we BECOME?????

  5. My Frequency -- Now we got LIDS that Park and "OWN" the Frequency as THEIRS only!

  6. Jammin' -- How 'bout those like LIDS that whistle, blow, play tapes, and cuss at each other?


  8. Antennae -- Antennae are FOR BUGS (not Vibroplex) -- ANTENNAS are for radios! -- Sheesh...

EASTERN            UTC



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