Z, Zed and Zee End!

Today’s the last day of April and the last day of the A-to-Z meme.  I thought I’d pay tribute to the lowly ‘z’, last in line in the alphabet and at one point, eliminated from the alphabet by the Roman Censor Claudius Appius Caecus.  According to an interesting article at dictionary.com :

His justification was that z had become archaic: the pronunciation of /z/ had become /r/ by a process called rhotacism, rendering the letter z useless.

Later, the Romans brought it back, but only for words of Greek origin.  The letter ‘z’ is one of only two that came directly from Greek (the Greek letter ‘zeta’), rather than Etruscan.

In American English, the letter is pronounced “zee” — a pronunciation common in 17th century English English, which was probably brought here by the Pilgrims and their contemporaries. Of course, the rest of the English speaking world tends to pronounce it ‘zed’.  This latter version is almost certainly a variant of ‘zeta’, and thus, perfectly understandable.  A Canadian gentleman by name of Bill Casselman has a brief history of ‘zee/zed’ here that you might enjoy reading. (I apologize for my idiot countrymen who ran the spelling bee, Mr. Casselman.  We’re not all so Amerocentric.)

And that’s the end of the A-to-Z meme.  I might go looking for another one to push me to post to this blog! 🙂 Thanks to everyone who took time to read my posts.
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2 thoughts on “Z, Zed and Zee End!

  1. “Zed is dead, baby, Zed is dead.” Deal.

    The English language has changed naturally overtime throughout many periods in history (not to mention, current phonics associated with the internet and sms messages). As it relates to what I will call “z” for the remainder of my explanation, its change was long before American’s Webster formalized it in his modified dictionary as an attempt to rid us of British colonized roots. It dates to the 17th Century OXFORD BRITISH DICTIONARY! It had to do with the fact “z” is more true to the origins of the language. Don’t believe me, ‘google’ it, as I am sure that Google is all the research most of you are capable of attending to as from the sound if it, most of you, are neophytes. Zed comes from the Greek letter “Zeta”, which is a foreign influence into the English language brought on by the French (read Bill Bryson’s “Mother Tongue” for a simple reference on par with your level of understanding). Oxford in their dated wisdom, when they still had a language monitoring body (and didn’t resort to Cambridge and Trinity, as they do now) modified the letter to “Z” because it was clearly the original parlance; hence why, certain older regions of the UK still use “Z” in their regional dialect. The letter “Z” comes from Latin (pronounced: Latein but was butchered by the British to being reduced to Latin), and Latin and German are the origins of English. English was always a common man’s language whilst the French language was used by high society. French, of course, has some Greek roots and early French kings that ruled by decree over Jolly Ole England often attempted to influence the language with proclamations in an attempt to modify the language. William I.; the Conqueror, a Frenchman and son of son of Robert, Duke of Normandy, and was born at Falaise was notorious for such proclamations that permanently and incorrectly altered the supposed the King’s English. This is why Oxford changed it back in the 17th century but was overturned by yet another French King who couldn’t spell worth a dime and destroyed many of your supposed “proper” English expressions, words and grammatical history that have been lost in time, ever since. Webster was the American version of the French that destroyed American English and altered the word back to “z”. Also, there are many earlier than 17Century sources on linguistics; sighting “z” as the original usage much earlier than the 16th Century. For example: http://lccn.loc.gov/70407159 check it out, you might learn something.

    In short, there is no correct way to say it “Z”, and only regional differences. As there are only different ways to say and spell words (color and colour, btw, colour is also misspelled in British English, historically speaking, of course) because English is and always has been a language of change and influence. Hence, there being so many variations, and the whole everyone else in the world is doing it, is hardly a justification. Such a justification makes about as much sense as the original poster on this thread. I could easily list a million things the “World” is doing that I am glad America is not doing.

    Lastly, as an American that lives abroad, studied at Cambridge, and has travelled the world many times over, I must say, I find your loosely laced cliché’s and generalizations to make you sound more like the “typical” American than anyone I have ever met in the America in my whole life. So even, if you are still in denial due to your ignorance, it is most important to note three things involving this thread:

    1. As a native New Yorker, I must tell you that, where ever your from in the World doesn’t matter because your inferior to me just by virtue of being from someplace other than New York, fact. Deal with it and your lame-ass part of the World, and stop bashing a culture that like all cultures has its ups and downs. It makes you sound contrite and uncultured. And again, you’re not from New York, so you opinion doesn’t really mean shit in the grand scheme of things. So either move to the only real city or stop talking about things you don’t know.

    2. Canadians who have Americanism fear, please, you’re like America’s retarded little brother, so STFU, put your bicycle helmet back on, and if you’re nice, we’ll take you to the Zoo later. The idea that your lame, boring country has anything, we want, aside from Maple Syrup is ridiculous. I saw your attempt at Olympics’, and if that is the best you can do, I’d rather see the games played in Angola.

    3. Thank God, American did change the language or we would all still have to talk like we had a stick up our ass like the British.

    References could go on and on…

    In 1605 (not long before the time the Pilgrim Fathers were setting forth), Shakespeare wrote: “Thou whoreson Zed, thou vnnecessary letter.” (Lear II. ii. 69).

    in New England is always zee; in the South it is zed.” (1882). The earliest the OED quotes for ‘zee’ is 1677, and of course, it is the form preferred by the influential Webster. Anything people from the south endorse must be backwards.

    In American English the letter z is named “zee”, which has its source in a 17th century dialect of English.

    Pros:
    The alphabet song rhymes (tee u vee, double u ex wye zee)
    America, fuck yeah!
    Cons:
    Pretty much everyone else says it differently
    Easily confused with c when spelled out, especially over the phone, or if the speaker has an annoying accent
    The Commonwealth of Nations (formerly the British Empire), and thus nearly all speakers of English that aren’t Americans, prefer to call it “zed”. It is derived from the ancient Greek zeta.

    Pros:
    Consistent with many other languages (e.g. zeta in Italian and in Spanish, zäta in Swedish, zet in Dutch, Polish, German, Romanian and Czech, zæt in Danish, zett in Norwegian, zède in French, and zê in Portuguese)
    Easily distinguishable from any other letter’s name
    It’s British, and all things British are known to be of exceptional quality
    Cons:
    Thousands of ruined childhoods – the alphabet song sounds somewhat awkward with a “zed” at the end
    May cause confusion when pronouncing nicknames and abbreviations (“Jay-Z”, “lol i ma on teh internet typin is ez”)

    Most of all though, I say truck cause it rhymes with @#&$, And it is a cookie (else there would be no cookie monster) and biscuit sounds like a word that perfect describes how English food tastes, so they can keep that one. Just the thought makes me want to vomit. Also, lorry -really lorry? If you called my grandfather a lorry driver, he would break your face open and demonstrate the difference between a truck driver and lorry driver. However, once again – you chaps do drive on the wrong side of the road (we have the World”s endorsement on this one) so I guess here too – you are basically just naive. Don’t even get me started on colour – please learn your history. Your culture is a wasteland and we have perfected the language. Think of us as English 2.0, whilst you are more like MS DOS. Once a purpose was clearly there but now you are just that thing in the way as load up the program I really want.

    Most important, there are more of us -way more, so deal with it when you see a US flag on a website to signify English. There is a reason you are not a World power anymore – we are better. Checkmate, my toothless bitter friends, checkmate. In closing, there is one thing you may have origins on in the World of logistics; ie.: the word ‘toothbrush’, because had we invented it then it would clearly be called the teethbrush…boom! Three cheers for NHS!

    • Gee, Mike. Overreact much? This was an article I dashed off in a few minutes to complete a blog meme. It wasn’t meant to be an in-depth discussion of the letter “Z” — far from it.

      I’m not sure why you clipped this comment off another discussion and dumped it here. The only reason I didn’t bit-bucket you is that I tend not to do that unless the comment is clearly unrelated and spam, and after all the nationalistic posturing is cleared away (something I should consider doing) there is information here related to my post.

      Passez-vous une bonne journée. (En passant, je suis une Américaine et j’aime le Canada. Vous ne l’aimez pas bien? Mords-moi.)

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