MaydayInteresting. So the international term for distress originated from a French phrase demanding help. [Insert joke here.]
Meaning: A distress signal
Origin: It doesn't have anything to do with the first of May. It comes frmo the pronunciation of the ending of the French phrase Venez m'aider, which means "Come help me!" Because of its distinctive sound -- understandable even over the static of a ship's radio -- and because m'aider sounded like "may day," a known English phrase, it was readily accepted as an official distress signal.
From the "Uncle John's Bathroom Reader Calendar" (www.pageaday.com) entry for Sunday, May 1, 2005.