Questions regarding the English alphabet.

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54
votes
5answers
7k views

If the letter J is only 400–500 years old, was there a J sound that preceded the design of the letter?

I understand that the letter "J" is relatively new — perhaps 400–500 years old. But since there has long been important names that begin with J, such as Jesus, Joshua, Justinian, etc., and which ...
41
votes
3answers
3k views

Is there a reason behind the ordering of letters in the English alphabet?

Is there a reason behind the ordering of letters in the English alphabet? i.e. why are we taught “A,B,C,D,E,F,...,Z”? Why not “L,A,S,U,I,Z,...,C”? I am asking this because, in some of the languages I ...
22
votes
1answer
1k views

What's the name of this letter? [closed]

I came upon this letter when reading a book, I couldn't find its name on the internet, you can imagine how hard it is to search about it. What is the name of the letter that follows "sample space"? ...
20
votes
2answers
5k views

Why is X used when we pronounce it Z?

I've seen a lot of words use an X but be pronounced with a Z. Mitch Hedberg put it best: Xylophone is spelled with an X, that's wrong, xylophone's zzzz, X? I don't $%(@#& see it. It should be ...
19
votes
3answers
8k views

Ye olde english alphabet question: Any other letters lost besides thorn, edh, and yogh?

According to this link, we are missing (in Modern English) at least three letters that used to be in common use in English. These are thorn, edh, and yogh. Are there others that were clearly in the ...
16
votes
1answer
1k views

Where did the names of English letters come from, and why are they all monosyllabic (except for “w”)? [duplicate]

I don't know too many languages, but the ones I know have more elaborate names for their letters than the monosyllabicity of names for English letters. (E.g. - I'll pick on Greek here - ay instead of ...
13
votes
2answers
521 views

Why is a w a “Double u”, but an m is not a “Double n”?

My 4 year old son just asked me this, and I have to say I am totally stumped. I hate not telling him things, so here's hoping you guys can dig me out of this hole. You can't fault his logic!
12
votes
6answers
1k views

Does the letter C serve any unique purpose? [closed]

Does the letter 'C' make any sound that cannot be made by other letters? "Cat" could be spelled "Kat," "Cinder" could be spelled "Sinder," and "Watch" could be spelled "Watsh." Edit: An excerpt ...
10
votes
4answers
10k views

What is the proper way to write the plural of a single letter? (another apostrophe question)

When writing (a blog post, script, etc..) what is the proper way to indicate two or more instances of a single letter? For instance, in Monty Python's Bookshop Sketch: C: I wonder if you might ...
8
votes
4answers
8k views

What word contains the most unique letters?

I'm assuming there isn't a word that contains every letter in the alphabet, so which word contains the most? Examples: antidisestablishmentarianism - 12 [antidseblhmr] psychotherapy - 12 ...
8
votes
3answers
654 views

Is there any shorter pronunciation of W than double-U?

When spelling, every letter in the Alphabet is pronounced by a single syllable, with the only exception of W being pronounced "double-U". (Fun fact, in German it's approximately pronounced like the ...
8
votes
1answer
351 views

Anglicization of diacritical marks and non-English letters

In my understanding, many European cultures have compensated for the lack of certain characters on keyboards (especially old typewriters) by “anglicizing” some characters. For example, the German ß ...
5
votes
4answers
302 views

Does any of English dialects engage non-English foreign letters in their alphabets?

For example, In 1990 Portuguese alphabet was extended by 3 foreign letters which are K (capa, pronounced as "kappa"), Y (pronounced as "ípsilon or "ipsilão" or "i greg"), W (pronounced as "diáblio"). ...
5
votes
2answers
4k views

Is “Roman alphabet” what we use for English?

I understand that the alphabet for the English language is not strictly English as languages such as French, Dutch and many more use the same alphabet, with few additions in other languages. Is Roman ...
5
votes
1answer
149 views

Does one consider “vs.” or “versus” when alphabetizing?

I work at a game store, and my manager insists that "versus" is to be considered when alphabetizing, and is not in the same league as "a, as, the, and, of, or," and the like. Although I do deem it ...
5
votes
2answers
270 views

R is the dog’s letter

Wikipedia: The letter R is sometimes referred to as the littera canina (canine letter). This phrase has Latin origins: the Latin R was trilled to sound like a growling dog. A good example of a ...
4
votes
5answers
9k views

What are the conventional words for characters (A-Z)?

I have just read the newest post of DOGHOUSEDIARIES, and I am wondering whether the words for characters are fixed in the USA or the UK, as I am not a native English speaker. For example: A as in ...
4
votes
3answers
499 views

Is the word “formulæ” valid English?

Is the word formulæ, written with an æ at the end, valid in English? I stumbled upon this apparently plural form of formula in the Wiktionary. I had no idea the letter æ could occur in English. Does ...
4
votes
5answers
297 views

How to refer to “earlier” letters in the alphabet?

Concerning the order of letters in the alphabet, how does one refer to "earlier" letters? For example, "Names starting with "earlier" letters come first in lists." Would that be "earlier," "higher," ...
3
votes
2answers
356 views

What is the origin of the different pronunciations of C and G before different vowels?

In English the letters C and G usually have different pronunciation before a/o/u and before e/i. The same is true for Romance languages - French, Spanish, Catalan, Italian etc. What is the origin of ...
3
votes
2answers
672 views

Why was it necessary to divide alphabets into vowels and consonants?

This may be an extremely simple question. I know pretty much what do we do when we see any vowel but I am curious why were these two classes created in the first place. I beg pardon for another ...
2
votes
1answer
811 views

Is there an English word containing the vowels ɤ or ɐ, and if not, which similar-sounding vowels are there in English? [closed]

I need examples for English words which contain the sounds ɤ (close-mid back unrounded vowel) and ɐ (schwa, an unstressed neutral vowel). But I am not sure if there are such words at all. If there ...
2
votes
4answers
351 views

Are there any plans to extend the English alphabet

Certain sounds possibly deserve their own letter in the alphabet, are there any indication that some more letter may be added to the English alphabet?
2
votes
2answers
552 views

What is the name of the basis writing stroke?

I can't recall the name of the standard writing stroke in the English script. Apologies in advance if this is off topic. This stroke is the single vertical stroke fundamental to many letters. A ...
1
vote
2answers
517 views

Why is the letter “w” the only letter in (basic) English alphabet that is not read as one syllable? [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: Why is a w a “Double u”, but an m is not a “Double n”? Is there any reason/history as to why "w" is the only letter in English alphabet that is ...
1
vote
1answer
90 views

What are the least common letters to start words? [closed]

What letters of the alphabet least commonly appear as the first letter of a word? I'm looking in particular for the 4 least common, but however many you want to give beyond that is welcome.
1
vote
1answer
2k views

Is there a sentence containing every letter without repeating? [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: Shortest pangram Does anyone know of a coherent sentence that contains every letter in the alphabet without repeating any?
1
vote
0answers
29 views

Where does alphabetical order come from? [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: Is there a reason behind the ordering of letters in the English alphabet? Alphabetical order seems something obvious, we do not usually ask ourselves if it is the best ...
0
votes
1answer
670 views

What is the term which encompasses accents, umlauts, etc? [closed]

Is there a term that covers grave and acute accents, umlauts, cedillas, tildes and all other characters that can be added to normal letters. I have come across the word diacritics. But this seems to ...
0
votes
4answers
212 views

Word for “only letters” [closed]

I am looking for a word that means "only letters A–Z", sort of like alphanumeric, but not numbers. The closest I got is alphabetic/alphabetical. The context is Please enter a [word] string: This ...
0
votes
1answer
42 views

Why hasn't the pronunciation of w been shortened?

"Double u" is a rather long pronunciation for a letter. Why do we not yet have a shortened pronunciation yet? Is the letter simply too young, or are there other reasons?
0
votes
0answers
37 views

Perfect English Pangram [duplicate]

Is there a perfect pangram for English language, a sentence that uses all 26 English letters that appear only once? Polish, Dutch and Russian, all has perfect pangrams. Polish: Pójdźże, kiń tę ...
0
votes
0answers
35 views

Foreign names: Transcription or literal spelling? [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: How should foreign words (with foreign characters) be written in English text? Sometimes, you want to use the names of foreign people in English texts. This presents no ...
-4
votes
2answers
99 views

Why are all consonants preceded by or followed by vowel sounds when pronounced?

When pronouncing the alphabet, why are all consonants preceded by or followed by vowel sounds? Are vowels considered to be a superior vocalization or just the easiest for the human tongue to ...