Expanded Facts – Z Wasn’t The Last Letter Added To The Alphabet!
The alphabet is one of the first things we learn. That’s why when you read “A B C D E F G,” you sing The Alphabet Song in your head. (Don’t try to pretend you don’t, I know you do.)
Even though it’s the first thing we learn, the order in which letters were added to the alphabet isn’t something I’ve ever considered. I guess I just assumed the alphabet came into existence all at once like magic. As I now know, that wasn’t the case at all.
The last letter added to the alphabet?
The Roman alphabet is our modern English alphabet’s predecessor. In the Roman Alphabet the letter “J” wasn’t a letter at all. In fact it was just a fancy way of writing the letter “I” called a swash.
When lowercase “i”s were used as numerals, the lowercase “j” marked the end of a series of ones, like “XIIJ” or “xiij” for 13.
The alphabet we know today was not created alphabetically. “Z” may be the last letter in alphabetical order, but Z was not the last letter added to our alphabet. The letter with that distinction was actually the “J.”
How did J get added to the Alphabet?
Gian Giorgio Trissino, a grammarian, who set out to reform the English language. In 1524, he wrote an essay that identified “I” and “J” as two separate letters.
“I” distinguished the aforementioned vowel sound, and “J” became a consonant that probably sounded more like the “j” in Beijing. Others later adopted his use of “J,” but Romance languages altered its pronunciation to the “j” we’re familiar with (as in jam).
The first English book to explain the difference between the two letters was published in 1633, and the rest is linguistic history. So, you can thank Gian Giorgio Trissino for the letter “J” and every time you were confused as a child between the letters “G” and”J”. Thanks Gian!
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