7

I read at Which is the correct way to refer to the letter "Z" — "Zee" or "Zed"? that the letter Z is pronounced :

'Izzard' (/ˈɪzərd/) in Scottish English.

as opposed to zed or zee.

Question: Is this really the case in the modern day or is it archaic? Do people really use this in Scotland or elsewhere?

I ask as I've never heard anyone use Izzard in my life (and I live not a million miles from Scotland). Regarding the history, the American Heritage® Dictionary says:

Word History: The curious and charming word izzard, meaning “the letter z,” is practically limited to certain fixed expressions in American vernacular English, such as from A to izzard, “from beginning to end,” and not to know A from izzard, “not to know even the most basic things.”

The English lexicographer Samuel Johnson mentions the word izzard as part of his attempt to explain the sound of the letter z in the grammar of English he placed at the beginning of his Dictionary of the English Language, published in 1755: Z begins no word originally English; it has the sound, as its name izzard ... expresses, of an s uttered with a closer compression of the palate.

In Johnson's time, a variant name for the letter z, uzzard, was also in use. Izzard and uzzard are related to zed, the usual name of the letter z in British English. In Scottish English, z was also once known as ezed, and this form gives us a clue to a possible origin of izzard.

// snip

6
  • 3
    I lived in scotland (Glasgow) for 7 years, and while i did not tour the country asking people to "pronounce the letter after y please", i've never heard anyone say "izzard", outside the context of the comedian Eddie Izzard (who is not scottish btw). They would always say "zed", like other british people. – Max Williams Mar 30 '16 at 14:37
  • 3
    I've lived in Scotland for 30 years and I've never heard anyone say that either. – John Clifford Mar 30 '16 at 14:43
  • 2
    Years ago I wrote a "text-to-speech" plugin for the Foobar music player. The first enhancement I had to add was a way of flagging how British "OS system voices" should pronounce band names like ZZ Top (which by default was spoken as Zed zed top in the first version! :) – FumbleFingers Mar 30 '16 at 15:04
  • 2
    As a native speaker of American English, I assure you that I have never heard the word "izzard", and that, at least in the regions where I have lived, one might hear "A to Zee", but never "A to izzard". I am unfamiliar with any form of the expression "not to know A from izzard", though I know several similar expressions that are not based on the alphabet. – PellMel Mar 30 '16 at 15:56
  • 1
    There's a memorable bit from Sesame Street where the letter Z is called "izzard" while spelling "buzzard", in "rural" American English. – Spencer Sep 21 '19 at 16:46
3

From OED: (I, British (England) English speaker, agree with the remark "archaic or dialect.")

izzard, n.

Pronunciation: /ˈɪzəd/

Forms: Also 1500s ezod, 1600s yzard, (aphetic zard), 1600s– now dialect uzzard, 1800s izzet; izzart.

Etymology: apparently in origin the same word as zed: compare the dialect izzet, uzzit, and the form ĕˈzed, now or formerly in Scotland for zed; also Languedoc izeto, the letter z

archaic or dialect.

Old name for the letter Z.

First recorded:

1597 T. Morley Plaine & Easie Introd. Musicke 36 X with y. ezod. & per se.

Latest record:

1837 J. Moultrie Poems 305 In those days not a soul knew A from Izzard.

1

I am from India and here is my two pennies worth on the topic. It is a very commonly occurring mistake here in India to mispronounce zee/zed as (i)zehd which I feel is kinda close to izzard. Now I am not too sure if the two are connected. But there sure is a similarity in the pronunciation.

1

It is very common to pronounce Z as izzard in Hong Kong.

1
  • Hi Matt, and welcome to EL&U. Do you live in HK? – Cascabel Feb 18 at 18:00
-2

From my (limited) experience, British English uses "zed" and American English uses "zee". Izzard is a term I've seen used occasionally but it seems to be relatively outdated.

1
  • 1
    This just seems to repeat the information from the question. – KillingTime Feb 19 at 5:08

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.