The Story of U and I

This is a bastardized excerpt from an essay that I did for my English class (EN101) at GRCC in 2012.

While digging around for information on the origins of the alphabet, I found these nuggets, amongst others.

From David Sacks’ Letter Perfect: “U, our fifth vowel, has two daughters: the consonants V and W, which follow U in alphabetical order. V and W were born gradually from U, during the European Middle Ages and Renaissance.” (311) “In fact, U looked exactly like her future daughter V (without V’s sound).” (312) In other words, Romans used U for all of the other sounds that we now use U, V and W for today. This gets complicated by the fact that U looked like today’s V. Inscriptions from the Roman era that read as IVPITER, were read as you-piter.

Letter Perfect also led me to another medieval invention: J. The Romans didn’t have a J sound. Where we use J, Romans used I to sound like the Y in yellow. (186))


Sorry about the title but once it occurred to me, I couldn’t resist it.


Work Cited

Sacks, David. Letter Perfect: The Marvelous History of Our Alphabet from A to Z. New York: Broadway, 2004. Print.

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