10 Letters We Dropped From The Alphabet


So… Fans of this channel will already know that I’m a big fan of reading, and being a fan of reading means that I’ve got a special place in my heart for letters. You remember letters. Right? They’re the “building blocks of words”, you’ve learned them in school, all 26 of them if you’re an English speaker like me. These 26 letters are like, you know, a big deal. They’re the foundation of the communication of ideas, along with the 10 basic numbers (0-9). These relatively simple and fundamental symbols are routinely combined to express information, and while the occasional 140 or, I guess 280-character tweet can cause us to somewhat lose faith in the future of humanity without these characters, things would be pretty awful. See, these 26 letters, they’re dependable. Once you learn them, you rely on them. They’re always there and you can count on them to never change. Right? Well, not quite. Because as you’re gonna learn today, the alphabet as you know it wasn’t always this way. So, here are 10 letters we dropped from the alphabet. That’s right. 10 letters that everybody USED to know about and used, but have since been purged from history. I know you’re still reeling from this concept, I’d be dumbfounded too if I had just found out my entire life was a lie. But not to worry! Maybe by the end of this, you’ll have found a new outlook on existence itself. But, we’re just getting started down the rabbit hole for now, so strap in. Let’s start things off easy with letter #1, the long s. Now, some of you have probably already run into the long s, while perusing old books or walking around colonial Williamsburg during your annual family vacation. Probably happened like this: You came across a word that should’ve had an “s” in it, but instead, you found this funky-looking “f”-thing. Don’t worry, the publishers of “Paradise Lost” (Paradife Loft) weren’t dumb enough to have a typo on the front cover of their book. This is “the long s”. You’re probably thinking, Okay, okay, I get it, they used used THIS (f[s]) instead of a lowercase s back then. But that’s not entirely true. The modern lowercase s was around even back then, and used just as often as its long counterpart. In fact, there was a ridiculously overly complicated set of rules to determine which s to use and where. Basically, you use a long s whenever you’ve got a word that uses a single s, or when a word uses two s’s at once – in which case, the long s is used as the first s, and then you use the regular s as the second s – but only if that s is at the beginning or in the middle of the word in question. Clear as mud. Right? Everybody else eventually thought so, because the long s got the boot at the start of the 19th Century as letters got a bit modernized. This purely stylistic substitute was seen as unnecessarily complicated so it becomes letter #1 on our death list. Letter #2: Ampersand (&). Now, okay, this one is still used occasionally. In fact, you probably already know what it means. Ampersand is a letter that means “and”. You’re probably thinking: “Austin, & is a symbol, not a letter.” Au contraire, mon frère! (Translation from French to English: On the contrary, my brother.) As recently as two centuries ago, ampersand was considered the 27th letter of the alphabet, often just called “and”. So instead of singing: “W, X, Y & Z”, the little Latin-speaking kids would sing: “W, X, Y, Z, and, per se, &”. That ending eventually got strung together by English speakers and became “ampersand”. “The more you know.” *Windows 3.1 startup sound plays* With the invention of text messaging and the Twitter character limit, Ampers& has had a bit of a renaissance in recent years. But I doubt it’ll get added back as letter 27 in English textbooks anytime soon. #3: Thorn. Hey, here’s a question: Do you ever drive by some dive downtown that’s got a sign outside that says, “Ye Olde Brick Tavern” or something like that? I actually see it quite alot. My favorite in my hometown, Springfield, Missouri, is this little car wash that’s affectionately called, “Ye Olde Buggy Bath”. *giggles* “Buggy”. Anyway, it might interest you to know that that “y” in “Ye” isn’t actually a “y” at all, but was a derivative of our 3rd letter, thorn. In a nutshell, thorn was a letter meant to represent “TH”. If you ask me, it looks pretty sweet. But German and Italian printers didn’t have that symbol on their typesets. So eventually, the symbol was replaced with a funny-looking “y”, though it still held its original pronunciation. So even though it looks like “Ye Olde Buggy Bath”, back then, they just pronounced it as, well, yeah, “THE Olde Buggy Bath”. Because the “y” wasn’t a “y”, it was a thorn. Sorry if that, like, you know, burst your historic bubble if you thought otherwise. #4: That. This is basically just a remix of the letter
“thorn”. You just draw a line through the top. Like ampersand, this letter was used as shorthand, this time, for the word “that”. It actually caught on very quickly and lasted even longer than the original letter “thorn” did. It was probably most widely used in religious writing. So if you happen to have some Old English Bible commentaries lying around, just crack them open. You’ll be sure to find it. #5: Eth. Eth is a little “thorn” wannabe. I am not a fan. Look at its stupid face! It’s just a D with a line through it! Get your own gig, you poser! So, long story short, “Eth” was also used as a symbol for “TH”, but a different kind of “TH”. What do you mean “a different kind”? “TH” sounds the same on everything! Oh, yeah? Check this out. Thoughtful Thing This Them Eh? Eh? Hear the thunderous difference? One of them is something called a voiceless dental fricative. The other is called a VOICED dental fricative. Oh, yeah. I have words. #6: Ash. THIS thing is basically an A&E smashed together. (Obviously.) You might see it occasionally in words like “aether” and “aeon” if you’re reading a sci-fi or fantasy novel that wants to look cool. In Old English, “ash” represented a sound “somewhere between” a and e. Essentially like you would pronounce the “a” in “cat” or thereabouts. As you might imagine, having a letter meant to represent a sound “somewhere between” two other sounds, it’s not very definitive, so “ash” fell out of common use, though it’s still around in lots of other dialects. But, I’m sure you already knew that! Because you are way smarter than me. #7: Ethel: the letter that everyone’s great aunt is named after. “Ethel” looks a bit like our previous letter, and, likewise, has a lot to do with pronunciation. Specifically, words with a long “e”. So we’re talking “subpoena”, “foetus”, and the such like. The pronunciation in question will depend if it is a Latin word or a Greek word. If you want to know how to find out the language of origin, then simply shoot a friend request over to the closet script spelling bee judge, and I’m sure that they will be more than happy to tell you. #8: Wynn. So, this one is pretty cool. It’s a letter that basically came in 2nd when English opened up the phone lines for public voting. You might not know it, but there was a time when English scribes didn’t actually have a letter to represent the “w” sound. See, English gets a lot of its alphabet from Latin, and the sound, “w”, doesn’t get a lot of airtime in that circle. English writers had to figure out a way to MAKE one. They started by just putting two u’s together. But lots of scribes really hated that design. It looked odd, and it took too long to write out. So the letter, “wynn” was proposed. “Wynn” was used for a bit, and scribes really liked it, but, for whatever reason, folks really couldn’t break the habit of just using those two u’s. Eventually, the cord of public weighted in, and the two u’s went out, becoming the de facto letter that we know today as “double-u”. WOW! I bet you never knew that! #9: My personal favorite, Yogh. Look at it! It’s beautiful! BEAUTIFUL! I love that design! We should use it for something! (I’m running out of jokes) So, “yogh” was used for that noise that you make at the back of your throat when you say names like “Bach” or “the loch ness monster”. Sadly, the confusion that it caused with the letter (*number) “3” ultimately doomed it from becoming permanent. It was quickly abandoned and replaced with the “gh” combo. Interestingly, the sound that it indicates has sadly become silent in English, like “though” or “daughter”. I’d personally like to see “yogh” make a comeback, but as long as that pesky number “3” keeps using the same symbol, it’ll likely never happen. And finally, #10: Eng. Our last letter is a great example of a letter that should work great in theory, but creates too many problems in practice. “Eng” was created by a dude named “Alexander Gill the Elder” in 1690. He was an English scholar and spelling reformer, which, evidently, was a viable career choice in the 17th Century. Gill was big on “eng”, he wanted it to replace the letter combination, “ng”, and tried to soft-open it in many of his writings. So “king” would look like this: (kin). “thing” would look like this: (thin). and “singing” would look like this: (sinin). It all makes sense, sort of. But “g” was really popular in Letterland at the time, and printers really struggled to implement Gill’s design. Readers had a hard time differentiating “eng” from “n”, especially if the ink (that made up the tail) started to fade, and it wasn’t too long before the letter faded from use as well. But, hey! You know what?! There’s nothing stopping YOU from using it if you want! The letter’s actually still around on international phonetic alphabet keyboards. (Just throwing that out there.) In fact, there’s nothing stopping you from bringing ANY of these puppies back on the scene. All it’ll take is stubborn determination and the convincing of an entire civilization. So why not get started today by sharing this video with everybody on your friends list or social media feed? Let everybody know you’re an intellectual guy (or girl), because you watch intellectual videos just like this! You share this video with everyone that you know (Don’t think), and everyone you know will know that you are very smart (Just share.), and exceptionally clever (…for Earth.). The very future of English depends on you! *outro music plays* Videos like this tickle your fancy? Wanna see more? Get behind the scenes access by backing me on Patreon. Exclusive content, and you can even request a video topic. $1.00 a month to get in on the ground floor. Shout-out to this video’s sponsors. *outro music keeps playing* So that’s that. I hope you learned a little something today. Don’t forget to like and subscribe for more. Or don’t. I don’t really care.

100 Replies to “10 Letters We Dropped From The Alphabet”

  1. I've always used & instead of writing and I just find it quicker, I wish it was still in the alphabet

  2. In my country the letter Æ is written as the letter E so if you're not native, you have to follow a hundred principals to understand how to pronounce the words with E in them

  3. Letter #9 with yogh with it being a silent in english now (gh), if you added it back wouldnt that make daughter sound a lot more like doctor??

  4. Wow english is actually awful lmao it must be so hard for non native speakers to learn how to say the "th" sound correctly in words, bring back ETH

  5. This is very fascinating!! thank you for this video! i didnt comment how good this is when i first watched but it still holds up! 12/10!! keep up the great work!

  6. It’s impossible to make a new letter without using any letters….trust me I have tried and I got so oofed because it was stressful.

    Well at least now days it is.

  7. For number 5, the Eth.
    My family is from India and they speak Telugu. We have that difference in the "th" sound. When writing Telugu or Sanskrit words in English, we use "Th" for the voiceless dental fricative version, and "Dh" for the voiced one. Example: the word Dharma.

  8. so the yoch and the gh in daughter sound thing pretty much work in german; it its written like tochter and u pronounce it like that.

    i thing you just changed my way to see languages

  9. I’ve thought about making a letter for ng before because I thought we needed it and apparently it exists

  10. ʰᵉᶫᶫᵒ this is every symbol on my phonetic keyboard:

    pbkɡmɲʙtdqɢɱŋrʈɖʔcɟnɴɳʀⱱɾɽɸfθszðvβʃʂçxɣʝʐʒχħhɦʕʁɬɮʋɹɻjɰlɭʎʟʘǁɓʛʼǀǃǂɗʄɠʍʢɺwʡɧɥɕ͡ʜʑ͜iyɪʏɨʉʊɯueøɘəɵɤoɛœɜɐɞʌɔæaɶɑɒˈ̆‿ˌ|ː‖ˑ.̋˥̏˩̌᷈↓́˦̂↑̄˧᷄↗̀˨᷅↘̥̬̥̬ʰ̹̜̟̠̩̯̈̽˞̤̰̼ʷʲˠˤ̴̝̞̘̙̪̺̻̃ⁿˡ̚ɚᵖᵗᶜᵏᵇᵈᶡᶢˀᵐᶬᶮᵑᶰᶯᶲᶠᶿˢᵝᵛᶞᶻᶴᶝᶳᶾᶽᶼᶜ̧ˣᵡᶨʶʱᶹʴʵᶭᶩᶫᶣʳⁱᵉʸᶦᵋᵆᵃꟹ

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