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Questions tagged [alphabet]

Questions regarding the English alphabet.

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91
votes
3answers
15k views

Why are names starting with a “J” common, while words starting with a “J” are uncommon?

There's a reason "J" is worth 10 points in Word feud, it's a quite uncommon letter. According to Lewand, arranged from most to least common in appearance, the letters are: ...
78
votes
5answers
138k 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 ...
58
votes
3answers
23k 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 ...
45
votes
2answers
8k views

Where does “ö” fall in alphabetical ordering?

Much to my surprise, I just learned that some English-language documents use the ö character. I need to know, when sorting words in an English-language document, where is ö placed? before A? ...
37
votes
4answers
109k 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 have ...
30
votes
3answers
17k 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 ...
26
votes
2answers
48k 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 a ...
22
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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"? ...
21
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2answers
3k 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!
17
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4answers
4k 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 "...
16
votes
1answer
4k 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 ...
15
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3answers
2k 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 ...
14
votes
2answers
2k views

Why do some nicknames have no apparent relation with their original counterparts? [duplicate]

I find it unusual and rather contrary to common sense and logic that some nicknames should have no apparent relation to their original names, such as "Jack" for "John(eg. JFK)" or "Jonathan", "Patsy" ...
12
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6answers
3k 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 ...
11
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4answers
31k 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 [...
10
votes
7answers
2k views

Why does English omit diacritics on foreign names?

Why does English omit diacritics from foreign names that still use the Latin alphabet? For example, why are the Czech tennis player Tomáš Berdych, the Norwegian crime writer Jo Nesbø, or the Polish ...
8
votes
2answers
936 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 ...
8
votes
1answer
700 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 ...
7
votes
5answers
104k 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 ...
7
votes
5answers
620 views

Does any English dialect use any non-English foreign letters in their alphabet?

Which English dialects use non-English foreign letters in their alphabets? Does any English dialect currently include any foreign letters as part of their alphabet? Are any English dialects currently ...
7
votes
1answer
449 views

When did '&' stop being taught alongside the alphabet? [duplicate]

I've just discovered that "&" was considered the 27th letter of the alphabet, being part of alphabet songs. It was easy to discover its history (the information on the website Fast Company is ...
7
votes
2answers
975 views

Why is the letter “w” not pronounced “double v”?

Was "w" written with smoother curves back then?
7
votes
1answer
179 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 ...
7
votes
1answer
2k views

Why did Old English use C while other Germanic languages used K?

During most the first millennium CE, North and West Germanic languages were written in runic alphabets. Gradually, each language shifted from the runic alphabet to the Latin alphabet. The people who ...
6
votes
6answers
6k views

A perfect (honest) pangram that is understandable for a regular native user?

Pangrams were pure wordplays, that because of IT has become a nice tool to test keyboard and fonts, assuming they are easy to remember and short. Therefore perfect pangrams are so nice: you don't need ...
6
votes
2answers
24k views

Is the “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 ...
6
votes
2answers
8k views

I'm trying to teach Non-English kids the alphabet. What is a good list of words starting with A-Z? [closed]

I am writing a small software program to teach non-English-speaking kids English Alphabets from A to Z. Is there any list of simple English words which begin with each letter? For example Apple for "...
6
votes
1answer
345 views

Why don't ligatures have names?

It is common to see ligatures such as Æ or Œ in reference to classical works such as Œdipus or Æsop but these do not seem to have names. Strangely enough in the Old English alphabet there were similar ...
5
votes
3answers
1k views

Meaningful English sentences containing very few distinct letters

An English pangram is a sentence that contains each of the 26 letters used in English, the classic example being `the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.' What I am looking for is precisely the ...
5
votes
4answers
57k 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 ...
5
votes
3answers
10k 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 ...
5
votes
2answers
302 views

Can I spell a voiced “th” without using IPA?

Is there a way to unambiguously convey that the "th" in a word should be voiced, like in the word "the", but without using the International Phonetic Alphabet (or any non-alphabetic characters)? ...
5
votes
2answers
6k views

Is there a formal spelling for the English letter names?

The English alphabet has a common pronunciation. For example, the letter b is pronounced like the word bee, the letter c like the word see, and the letter i like the word aye. Is there a formal ...
5
votes
2answers
1k 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
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2answers
66k views

Difference between Letter and Alphabet in English [closed]

Can anyone please explain what is the difference between "Letter" and "Alphabet" in English?
4
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5answers
2k 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," ...
4
votes
1answer
2k views

With character or sign

Is there a character or sign for 'with', similar to & for 'and'? Also, for 'without'?
3
votes
2answers
653 views

NATO and US Finance Spelling alphabets - Which is more commonly used in everyday situations?

This is mostly related to US "normal" day to day usage of the spelling alphabet. I am new to the country and most often emails/names etc needs to be spelled and I find it difficult to determine which ...
3
votes
1answer
16k 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.
3
votes
1answer
872 views

& as a letter in the alphabet?

I've been googleing and ran across this little blog post. It has a bit of information stating the the & symbol was at one point the 27th letter in the alphabet. For years the & symbol (now ...
3
votes
1answer
2k views

How is the name of the letter “Z” pronounced in Indian English?

How is the letter "Z" pronounced in Indian English? I assumed that Indian English is more similar to British English than to American English, and therefore would pronounce it "Zed". But I came ...
3
votes
1answer
4k views

What does “is for” mean exactly? [closed]

I get the main idea in phrases like "L is for the way you look at me" and "A is for Apple", but I don't know the exact meaning. If you were to use other words instead of "is for" which synonym would ...
3
votes
1answer
2k views

Is there a proper name for counting with letters?

How should one refer to the practice of using letters instead of numbers for counting? I'm referring to this: "A, B, C, ... X, Y, Z, AA, AB, AC, AD, AE, AF, AG... ZX, ZY, ZZ, AAA, AAB..." ...
2
votes
1answer
3k 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
2answers
4k views

What Character Was Removed from the Alphabet?

From: http://blog.dictionary.com/ampersand/ the ampersand today is used primarily in business names, but that small character was once the 27th part of the alphabet. Is this true? Are there any ...
2
votes
2answers
262 views

List of inverted letters and their applications

Upside-down letters, as in ∀, and left-side-right letters, as in ∃, are used in mathematics and logic to indicate for all and there exists. Do you know other examples of such inversions ...
2
votes
3answers
2k 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 ...
2
votes
0answers
720 views

List of characters with diacritics accepted in English words [closed]

Some diacritics and special characters (like ligatures) are accepted in Contemporary English: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_terms_with_diacritical_marks Examples of English spellings: ...
2
votes
1answer
1k views

Why is J often used to represent a “Y” sound in Romanizations of other writing systems?

I am not referring to IPA. I am referring to examples in textbooks. For example, my Ukrainian textbook says that the letter Я is pronounced as "ja". Most native English speakers would pronounced this ...
1
vote
4answers
1k views

Is there a collective word for the different “alphabets” used by different languages?

As I believe "alphabet" refers specifically to the latin a-z, is there a term that collectively refers to all collections of writing characters. ie, if I had a list that contained the entries "Latin, ...