Over the weeks I have been really impressed by how much people have pushed themselves in these 100 word challenges, trying out new writing styles that are well outside their comfort zones. I decided it was about time I did the same, so last week I tried out poetry, and this week I’m having a go at non-fiction. I know this is not at all what Julia meant when she told us to “do ‘something’ with, involving, pertinent to THE ALPHABET”, but I’m feeling rebellious so I don’t care!
The word ‘alphabet’ comes from the first two letters of the Greek alphabet (alpha and beta). The English alphabet as we know it, with its 26 letters, has only been in existence since the 1500s. When English first began to be written down, in the 5th century, the Anglo-Saxon Runic alphabet was used. The Latin script was introduced by Christian missionaries in the 7th century, and for a time both scripts were used.
There was no formal order for the letters until 1011, when Byrhtferð, a writer, organised the then 29 letters, into roughly the order we would recognise today.
This post is part of the 100 Word Challenge for Grown-Ups at Julia’s Place.
What’s the rest of this then? The 100 words are up. Well, yes…but I found researching the history of the English alphabet so interesting, that I thought I’d share a bit more of what I found out just in case there are any geeks like me reading that want to know what else I discovered!
At the time the alphabet included the ampersand (&) and five other letters and looked like this.
Byrhtferð actually ordered the letters to aid numerology, but a side-effect of his effort was that with an order the alphabet became easier to memorise and therefore to use for writing.
The last six letters of this alphabet were deleted in the 14th and 15th centuries, although there is still some evidence of & and Þ . The letter & was originally a combination of the letters ‘et’ and now means ‘and’ because of its association with the Latin word ‘et’ also meaning ‘and’. Over time Þ (which was a th sound) came to be written as an elongated ‘y’ and can be seen in signs such as “Ye Olde Booke Shoppe.”
Finally in the 16th century, j u and w became letters in their own right, instead of just variations of i and v, and the 26 letter alphabet that we learnt to chant when we were children was born.