In footage which I was not able to capture, recently, an American documentary presented an alphabet for teaching to children with a backward 'Z'. That is, the letter was like an 'S' with straight lines.

Was this a mistake or is the backward Z actually used in American English or American dialect ?

The only references I can find are a Stack Exchange question about representing a backward Z as a mathematical symbol and a Wikipedia article (citing no sources) which, tantalisingly, suggests it is part of the ancient Latin alphabet.

  • Alphabet for children? Could it be a backward alphabet rather than a backward Z? m.youtube.com/watch?v=_wCxRn35jwA
    – user 66974
    Aug 28, 2018 at 9:43
  • @user070221 Not kidding? :)
    – Kris
    Aug 28, 2018 at 9:51
  • Nigel J., (Ibid.) "Reversed S is very often used in languages using the Latin alphabet as a substitute for S, to simulate a young child's handwriting."
    – Kris
    Aug 28, 2018 at 9:53

1 Answer 1


In the Pitman Initial Teaching Alphabet (ITA), a backward 'z' is called 'zess', and is used to denote the hard 's' sound used in many plural forms of nouns and third-person singular present forms of verbs (including is). The ITA is an educational aid, and is not used in normal writing to replace the standard alphabet.

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Initial Teaching Alphabet

  • 2
    Back maybe 50 years ago there was a push to publish "primary" reading books using an alphabet (along with spelling) that was perceived as less confusing than the English/Latin one. It never really caught on. (I don't think the above is that alphabet, but there may be vestiges of the alphabet remaining here and there.)
    – Hot Licks
    Aug 28, 2018 at 11:45

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