Zee vs Zed
Posted: 02 July 2007 07:27 AM   [ Ignore ]
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As I understand it, there is a difference in the way that Americans and Canadians pronounce the letter Z (not in words, but when citing the letter by itself). Americans say “zee” while Canadians call it “zed.” What do speakers from other English speaking countries call it? Anyone know how or when this difference came about?

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Posted: 02 July 2007 07:58 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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The Zed pronunciation comes from the Greek letter “zeta”.  The American “zee” pronunciation comes from a 17th Century English dialect form according to this Wikipedia article.  The American pronunciation seems to be the only one in the English speaking world.  good Random House article here.

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Posted: 02 July 2007 08:45 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Thou whoreson zed, thou unnecessary letter!

Kent, in King Lear, indicating the usual pronunciation in Shakespeare’s time. I wonder if the zee came from Devonshire or Somersetshire dialect. It has the ring of the West Country about it (probably only to me!)

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Posted: 02 July 2007 10:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Zed ultimately comes from the Greek zeta, but the path is via the Latin zeta and the French zède. It appears in English in the 15th century.

Zee appears in the latter half of the 17th century. Some early currency in England, but now pretty much restricted to the US.

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Posted: 02 July 2007 10:55 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Dave Wilton - 02 July 2007 10:36 AM

Zed ultimately comes from the Greek zeta, but the path is via the Latin zeta and the French zède. It appears in English in the 15th century.

Zee appears in the latter half of the 17th century. Some early currency in England, but now pretty much restricted to the US.

Was the letter not used in English before the 15th century?

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Posted: 02 July 2007 01:05 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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What about “izzard”?

ֿEd.: Welcome to this site, raorgen.

[ Edited: 02 July 2007 01:08 PM by lionello ]
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Posted: 02 July 2007 04:54 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Yes, use of the letter Z dates back to the Old English period. It’s the names zed and zee that are more recent.

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Posted: 03 July 2007 10:52 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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lionello - 02 July 2007 01:05 PM

What about “izzard”?

ֿEd.: Welcome to this site, raorgen.

Thanks. I’m just a casual visitor, but I really like the site.

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Posted: 03 July 2007 12:14 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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What about “izzard”?

OED:

arch. or dial.

[app. in origin the same word as zed: cf. EZOD, the dial. izzet, uzzit, and the form e’zed, now or formerly in Scotl. for zed; also Languedoc izeto, the letter z (D’Hombras Dict.).]

Old name for the letter Z.
1738 SWIFT Polite Conv. i. Wks. 1814 XI. 348 ‘Miss, what spells B double Uzzard?’ ‘Buzzard, in your teeth, Mr. Neverout.’ 1755 JOHNSON Dict., Gram., zed, more commonly izzard or uzzard, that is s hard. 1773 GOLDSM. Stoops to Conq. IV. Wks. 668/2 Then there’s an M, and a T, and an S, but whether the next be an izzard, or an R, confound me, I cannot tell. 1799 SOUTHEY Eng. Eclogues Poet. Wks. III. 78 Warbling house-notes wild from throat and gizzard, Which reach from A to G, and from G to Izzard. 1828 Craven Dial., Izzet, the letter z. 1834 HOOD Tylney Hall 269 A fiery izzard seemed written on the distant sky. a1874 J. MOULTRIE Poems I. 167 In those days not a soul knew A from Izzard.

The “cf. EZOD” is a glitch: the first edition (as represented by my old Compact Edition) had an entry

Ezod. Obs. A variant of IZZARD, the letter Z.
1597 MORLEY Introd. Mus. 36 X with y. ezod. & per se.

The citation (from Thomas Morley’s A plaine and easie introduction to practicall musicke) seems to have vanished from the OED, but the cross-reference remains.

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Posted: 03 July 2007 01:07 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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That set me wondering if Eddie Izzard’s name is clever wordplay on “Eddie Z” which sounds a bit like “Eddie’s head” but apparently not.

The name Izzard appears to be derived from the Old German word “ischild,” which meant ice battle.

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Posted: 03 July 2007 01:26 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Yeah, I was wondering if there was any connection, too.

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Posted: 03 July 2007 02:22 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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My Dictionary of English Surnames says it’s a variant of Isard, from Old French Iseut or Isald, which represents either the personal name Isolde or a Germanic borrowing is ‘ice’ + hiltja ‘battle’ (in other words, what Eliza’s source said).

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Posted: 05 July 2007 03:30 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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I’ve always vaguely wondered if its wordplay on ‘Eddie is hard’ - but I think it’s his given name rather than an adopted stage name (now, where does one research that I wonder).

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Posted: 05 July 2007 03:47 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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flynn999 - 05 July 2007 03:30 AM

I’ve always vaguely wondered if its wordplay on ‘Eddie is hard’ - but I think it’s his given name rather than an adopted stage name (now, where does one research that I wonder).

Wikipedia is always a good first try.

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Posted: 09 July 2007 11:30 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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Joining the discussion.  First - who is Eddie Izzard?  Someone on this board?  Second, in Australia where we believe we still speak English (although listening to our newsreaders I am not so sure) we use Zed.

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Posted: 09 July 2007 11:33 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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Look at the previous post, Irene.  Words that appear in blue are links and this one is a link to the Wikipedia article on Eddie Izzard.

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