The European Z
In America, the letter Z is pronounced "zee"
I was eating a restaurant last week, and a little four-year-old British boy came over to my table. He began to sing the alphabet, like all little kids do, and what really surprised me was how he ended the song. He pronounced "z" as "zet," which reminded me of how Germans pronounce the letter Z (tset).
Do all Britons say "z" as "zet?"
How about Australians?
Nope, we say "zed" ... but you're close ... and yep, that's pretty much everyone but the Americans (in English that is) including the Canadians (and proudly so according to my experience).
It's actually "zed", not "zet", and I believe it's the standard name in all English-speaking countries other than the U.S. The form "zee" is still encountered, though; it seems that Douglas Adams preferred it, for example.
The name "zed" comes from the Greek "zeta" (and it's actually called "zeta" in some languages, such as Spanish).
<<Nope, we say "zed" ... but you're close ... and yep, that's pretty much everyone but the Americans (in English that is) including the Canadians (and proudly so according to my experience).>>
Exactly! It's one of those things we've latched onto to 'prove' that we're not like Americans. I have to admit though that saying 'zed' ruins the song...I've always wondered when and how the form 'zee' developed, and how it became associated solely with the US.
This website ( http://www.billcasselman.com/cwod_archive/zed.htm
) has some interesting information about "zed" and "zee". It says that "zee" was a dialect form from England, which became extinct there in the seventeenth century. ("Zee" probably originated by analogy with "bee", "dee", "vee", etc.) In fact, it says that there were many different names in use for this letter in previous centuries, including "zad", "zard", "zed", "zee", "ezed", "ezod", "izod", "izzard", "uzzard". I guess it's just through the accident of history that "zee" became dominant in the US, and "zed" elsewhere. (That site says that Noah Webster supported "zee", so maybe he popularized this form in the US.)
What about the letter "H"? How do you pronounce it in your dialect?
Delia, it is not a question of dialects. Aitch is the correct pronunciation. Uneducated people say haitch.
Delia, we had a manager who said Haitch. We all sniggered behind his back!
"Haitch" is apparently standard in Irish English, but nowhere else.
I've read that some Australians say "haitch".
I love the way American tourists here all refer to our local street guides (known as "A-Z of Edinburgh" or whatever area of the UK) as "A to Zee".
Zed make much more sense because the Zee could easily be mistaken for Cee for C and vice versa?
Yeah, too many rhyming letter names all 'round: blame the Romans.
> Zed make much more sense because the Zee could easily be mistaken for Cee for C and vice versa?
Apparently it's not that big a problem, or we would have changed it. Z would be far from the only letter with that problem, which is one reason why the NATO alphabet (Alfa, Bravo, Charlie, Delta...) was invented, since it can be useful in high-noise situations where rhyming letter names really can be problematic.
"Delia, it is not a question of dialects. Aitch is the correct pronunciation. Uneducated people say haitch."
"Delia, we had a manager who said Haitch. We all sniggered behind his back!"
Such petty and picayune snobbery must make you feel really proud of yourself.