Last, and least, Z

Published 1st February 2012
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Last, and least, Z

Unfortunately, dear reader, we have almost reached the end of our journey through the alphabet. Thank you for joining us as we delve into the history of the symbols without which we would be unable to write this.

Last, and least (used, that is), we come to the letter Z.

The letter has been largely spurned by the Brits, but is loved by Americans. Thanks to a certain Noah Webster. (Yes, the one that came up with Webster’s dictionary, in case you were wondering.) Webster favoured (or favored, as he would write) spelling reform, and can be credited with many of the differences between American and British spellings. So where we would spell some words with the suffix ‘ise’, Americans would normally use ‘ize’. The British spelling comes from French, but America took inspiration from Greek instead. The letter S has been Z’s main rival throughout the years, often taking its rightful spot. For example, have you ever noticed that we write ‘snooze’ but not ‘chooze’?

The letter Z sometimes appears in its ‘long tailed’ form, appearing as it does in the image.This variant of the letter sometimes appears in the exact same form as the numeric character for the number three.

‘Catching some Zs’ is an American idiom, used to mean ‘getting some sleep’. This comes from the tradition of using the letter to express snoring sounds (normally written as ‘Zzzzzz’ in animations). But Z can also be used to imply energy, fun, and youth – many companies now replace the letter S with a Z, in order to attract a younger audience. Spatz is just one of the many companies that work this trend. The letter was originally only used for foreign words, so this is why it also retains a certain sense of the exotic.

So, what do you think of the letter Z? Do you think we should stop giving it such a hard time, and use it more, like the Americans?

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