When you looked at the letter in the picture, did you think of it as "zee" or "zed"? The answer may depend on where you grew up! Americans insist that it is pronounced "zee" but in English-speaking countries around the world, it is more likely to be called "zed".
My kids sometimes mock me, and my friends sometimes question me when I say zed but that tends to be my default pronunciation. Which makes sense, since I'm Canadian. Apparently, Canadians tend to use both zed and zee the way I do, and I think there are a couple of reasons for it. First is the alphabet song. You cannot sing "x, y, zed" because it doesn't rhyme with "next time won't you sing with me". Everyone knows that. Also, Canadians watch a lot of American television, and kids from the generations that grew up on Sesame Street learned their alphabet from Big Bird and friends.
Which one is right? Turns out - both. Actually, zed is the older pronunciation and is based on the Latin and French pronunciation of the letter's Greek equivalent, Zeta. It's also closer to the way the letter is pronounced in other languages - in German, it's zet; in French, it's zede, and in Spanish, zeta. Zed first appeared in print in the 1400s, while the pronunciation zee first appeared in a British spelling book in 1677. It's uncertain why zee became standard in the United States while a majority of English speakers stuck with zed, but it earned Noah Webster's approval in 1827, and by the mid-nineteenth century, it was established as the American pronunciation.
Old habits die hard, so my kids can tease me as much as they want about spelling with the letter zed, and I will probably still do it. The Pontiac Z/28 should be referred to as the "Zed Twenty-eight" and don't tell me otherwise. The band ZZ Top though - that's a case where the letter must be pronounced as "zee", so yes, I'm consistently inconsistent. Also inconsistent is the fact that band member Frank Beard is the guy that doesn't have a beard, but that's another post.
This post is linked at Blogging Through the Alphabet, hosted by Cristi at Through the Calm and Through the Storm and Meg at Adventures with Jude. We have reached the end of the alphabet and are featuring the letter Z. Zed. Whatever. Either way, it's the end. Thanks, Cristi and Meg, for hosting us all the way through the alphabet!
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