The emergency signal "SOS" is an internationally accepted distress call that does not have a literal translation, according to About.com. The universal signal was adopted to reduce confusion between sailors of different nationalities.
PBS notes that the "SOS" signal was chosen for its simplicity. In Morse code, "SOS" is transmitted as three dots, three dashes and three dots, allowing a radio operator to send the signal repeatedly as a continuous call for help. The signal was adopted by most nations in 1908, although the United States did not officially adopt the universal signal until after the sinking of the Titanic in 1912.