Excerpt from Spell It Out by David Crystal, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Spell It Out

The Curious, Enthralling and Extraordinary Story of English Spelling

By David Crystal

Spell It Out

Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt


This letter was introduced by Norman scribes in the 11th century as a means of representing the sound /w/, replacing the runic letter which had been used in Old English. Although its shape is a ligature of two vs, its name is 'double u', reflecting the state of affairs in Middle English when v and u were interchangeable. The lower-case letter is a smaller version of the capital.

X,x

X emerged in the Greek alphabet, derived from an earlier Semitic sibilant letter. It came into Latin with the value of /ks/, and was used in Old English typically as a variant spelling of cs. The lower-case letter is a smaller version of the capital.

Y,y

Y is a Greek adaptation of a Semitic symbol. In Roman times, it was borrowed to help transcribe Greek loanwords into Latin. The rounded lowercase letter developed as part of handwriting, enabling scribes to write it in a single movement, The trunk of the letter was placed below the line, and moved to the right to enable a smoother link to be made with the following letter.

Z,z

Z appeared in the Semitic and Greek alphabets, and although it was not needed for Latin, the Romans later borrowed the symbol to help transcribe Greek loanwords, making it the last item in their alphabet. The lower-case form is a smaller version of the capital.

From Spell it Out by David Crystal. Copyright © 2013 by the author and reprinted by permission of St. Martin's Press, LLC.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book:
  How the Word "Ghost" Got its "h"

Member Benefits

Join Now!

Check the advantages!
Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year

    •  
    • FREE
    • MEMBER
    • Range of media reviews for each book
    • Excerpts of all featured books
    • Author bios, interviews and pronunciations
    • Browse by genre
    • Book club discussions
    • Book club advice and reading guides
    • BookBrowse reviews and "beyond the book" back-stories
    •  
    • Reviews of notable books ahead of publication
    •  
    • Free books to read and review (US Only)
    •  
    • Browse for the best books by time period, setting & theme
    •  
    • Read-alike suggestions for thousands of books and authors
    •  
    • 'My Reading List" to keep track of your books
    •  

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: The Goldfinch
    The Goldfinch
    by Donna Tartt
    Winner of the 2014 Pulitzer for Fiction.

    Her canvas is vast. To frame a story about art, love and ...
  • Book Jacket: Toms River
    Toms River
    by Dan Fagin
    Winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Nonfiction

    In Toms River, investigative journalist Dan Fagin ...
  • Book Jacket: The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry
    The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry
    by Gabrielle Zevin
    I feel like Gabrielle Zevin wrote this wonderful book, about a lonely New England bookstore owner ...

First Impressions

Members read and review books ahead
of publication. See what they think
in First Impressions!

Books that
expand your
horizons.

Visitors can view a lot of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only

Find out more.

Book Discussions
Book Jacket

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry
by Gabrielle Zevin

Published Apr. 2014

Join the discussion!

Who Said...

Who dares to teach must never cease to learn

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Word Play

Solve this clue:

P Your O C

and be entered to win..

Books thatinspire you.Handpicked.

Books you'll stay up all night reading; books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, books that will expand your mind and inspire you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.