A, bee, sea, dee, ee, eff, jee, eych, eye, jay, kay, ell...

LookAtMe

Senior Member
Italian
Hi.
How do you actually write English alphabet letters if you ever need to?
For instance, in Italian until now we have written "a" for A, "bi" for B, "ci" for C "di" for D etcetera...even though the Stupid Modern Times & Things that are shaping current society (for the worse) are pushing for a ridiculuos change in that...anyway...back to the English alphabet, Google isn't helping me probably because I don't know how to set my research thus I have got no results.
How do you actually write "A"?
And "B"? Do you write it "bee" or "bea? Or else?
And "C"? See? Sea? or else?
And the rest of the entire alphabet?
Thank you in advance.
 
  • heypresto

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I don't think I've thought about many of these before, but off the top of my head, these seem reasonable. Others may have other ideas.

    Ay
    Bee
    See
    Dee
    Ee
    Eff
    Gee
    Aitch
    I
    Jay
    Kay
    Ell
    Em
    En
    O
    Pee
    Queue? or kew?
    Ar
    Ess
    Tee
    You
    Vee
    Double-you
    Ex
    Why
    Zed or zee (in AE)
     

    london calling

    Senior Member
    UK English
    I write A as A, B as B, etc.:) I've never seen letters of the alphabet written any other way by a native speaker (if not for foreign students: I've certainly come across an 'Italian pronunciation' version for Italian students).
     

    RM1(SS)

    Senior Member
    English - US (Midwest)
    As heypresto, but:

    Queue
    Wye

    I write A as A, B as B, etc.:) I've never seen letters of the alphabet written any other way by a native speaker (if not for foreign students: I've certainly come across an 'Italian pronunciation' version for Italian students).
    I've seen them written out like this in novels where someone is spelling a word or giving a string of letters (or of letters and numbers). And of course there are the cockneys who drop their aitches.
     

    dojibear

    Senior Member
    English - Northeast US
    In AE, I never write the pronunciation of the letters. I write A or "a" or "A". Since "a" is a word, I can't just write a.

    What I write may depend on the sentence. Usually a capital letter is enough to let the reader know:

    I spell "color" without a U, but BE speakers spell it "colour" with a U.
     

    LookAtMe

    Senior Member
    Italian
    So far you all seem to indicate to me there does not exist a set rule about it and everyone on both sides of the Atlantic is free to play it by the ear...
     
    Last edited:

    dojibear

    Senior Member
    English - Northeast US
    So far you all seem to indicate to me there does not exist a set rule about it and everyone on both sides of the Atlantic is free to play it by the ear...
    I disagree. There is a rule. It's just not the rule that you want.

    How do you actually write "A"?
    And "B"? Do you write it "bee" or "bea? Or else?
    And "C"? See? Sea? or else?
    I write "B". I do not write "bee" or "bea" or some other sequence. That is the rule.

    There is no rule for writing it "bee" or "bea". That is not the rule.
     

    tunaafi

    Senior Member
    English - British (Southern England)
    The only two letters I've seen spelt out are H and Z in contexts such as:

    I know it's snobbish, but my daughter's new boyfriend drops his aitches, and it puts me against him.
    The last letter of the alphabet is
    zed for British people and zee for Americans.
     
    Last edited:

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    I agree with tunaafi.

    Like doji, I wouldn't spell out any of the other letters.
     

    LookAtMe

    Senior Member
    Italian
    Looks like tunaafi has proved dojibear wrong when heshe said "It's just not the rule that you want", and "There is no rule for writing it "bee" or "bea". That is not the rule"...but that aside tunaafi's reply has made me think of the saying "dotting the i's and crossing the t's?
    Has anyone ever seen instead "crossing the tees" by chance? As a non-Anglophone I find "tees" would be more "readable" than "t's". (Also you don't normally form the plural with an apostrophe + s, do you?)

    P.S.: I know. "Heshe" isn't a proper word. But it just came up and I found it rather fun.
     

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    I believe that there are "official" spellings for all the letters (not sure about the vowels) - it's just that most people have no occasion to learn them or use them.

    One that is used at times is ess - for instance, when describing the shape of a type of curve in a road.

    In general they are fairly obvious.

    Bee
    Cee
    Dee
    Ef
    Gee
    Em
    En
    Tee

    The two lists below have slight differences. The first seems more AE oriented and the second more BE oriented.

    For instance:

    Y = wye in the first and wy in the second

    F = ef in the first and eff in the second

    I know the first spellings from my AE experience

    English alphabet - Wikipedia

    Names of letters in the English Alphabet

    Both lists spell Q as cue
     

    PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    F = ef in the first and eff in the second
    The eff form is probably from the verb "to eff" - "And there he was, covered in mud and effing and blinding."

    (I have looked for something like "He could not eff it at all - in fact, he believed it was ineffable." but could not find an example. :D)
     

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    The first list shows both forms - ef and eff - and specifies the second as a verb form.
     

    LookAtMe

    Senior Member
    Italian
    I believe that there are "official" spellings for all the letters (not sure about the vowels) - it's just that most people have no occasion to learn them or use them.

    One that is used at times is ess - for instance, when describing the shape of a type of curve in a road.

    In general they are fairly obvious.

    Bee
    Cee
    Dee
    Ef
    Gee
    Em
    En
    Tee

    The two lists below have slight differences. The first seems more AE oriented and the second more BE oriented.

    For instance:

    Y = wye in the first and wy in the second

    F = ef in the first and eff in the second

    I know the first spellings from my AE experience

    English alphabet - Wikipedia

    Names of letters in the English Alphabet

    Both lists spell Q as cue
    Gosh! I should've simply looked it up in Wikipedia!
    But what does Wikipedia mean by F > ef + eff as a verb?
    L > el + ell as a verb?
    What do verbs have to do with it?
     

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    What do verbs have to do with it?
    That's what I thought at first.

    I guess the distinction they are making is that the letter F can stand for fuck by itself and turn into effing when spelled out. It needs two efs (see what I did there? :) ) in that form.
     

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    Probably not. Like I said, even though they exist, they aren't widely used.

    But I definitely might write "two esses" instead of "two s's"
     

    much_rice

    Senior Member
    English - American
    I suppose I'm the only native speaker here who uses these a lot — although not in writing. They're very helpful when playing Bananagrams :D .

    Here are some situations where these do come up in actual writing:
    H - already mentioned, when talking about people "dropping their aitches"
    Z - already mentioned, "my zee is your zed"
    X - "Frank's date didn't show up, so he had the maître d' ex out his name from the list." (To "ex" or "ex out" means to draw an X over something, rendering it void.)
    N - in typography, this is an en-dash:
    M - in typography, this is an em-dash:
    (The en is about twice as long as a hyphen; the em is about twice as long as the en. Supposedly the en-dash is the length of some standard N; the em-dash the length of a standard M.)
    T - anything shaped like this letter can get a "tee-" prefix, like tee-shirt, but using the capital letter is much more common: T-bone steak, T-bone crash
    J - in some folk etymologies, "jaywalkers" are so called because they cross two streets in a jay-shape, angling from one to the other. Actually jay is a slang word for hobo

    Ell is the name of the letter but also an old English unit of measure ("about 45 inches" according to one source).

    OK is often rendered okay, which is a great demonstration of those two letters' spelling.
     

    much_rice

    Senior Member
    English - American
    I've heard of efts, but not effs. I wonder if that's another example of Webster's tweaking the spelling....
    I think an eft is a newt rather than a lizard. That said, I've never heard of "eff" either, except as a taboo deformation of "fuck."

    Edit: It might be worth mentioning that "eft" isn't just "a newt," but etymologically the same word as newt. Like "a napron" becoming "an apron," the word for this amphibian used to be something like "an evt." Some people kept that pronunciation and the proper division of the words, softening the vee into an eff (presumably because of the unvoiced tee that follows): an eft. But most people misunderstood the division as "a nevt"—with the middle part transformed into a vowel instead of a vowel-consonant cluster: a newt. According to Etymonline's article on this word, the Oxford English Dictionary says "the change of v to w is unusual." Maybe I'm getting some cross-chatter from other languages I know, but the change from vee to double-u sounds totally reasonable to me.
     
    Last edited:

    PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    Maybe I'm getting some cross-chatter from other languages I know, but the change from vee to double-u sounds totally reasonable to me.
    That sounds plausible to me. The printed form of "u" was often used to represent "v" in Middle English and early Modern English, so we could have
    an eftspoken-> an evtspoken -> an eutprinted/written and thus spoken -> a neutprinted/written and spoken ->a newtprinted/written/spoken
     

    Keith Bradford

    Senior Member
    English (Midlands UK)
    Has anyone ever seen instead "crossing the tees" by chance? ...
    Short-tempered golfers may dot your eyes if they see you crossing the tees when they're about to drive off.

    But seriously, there is perfectly good cause to have the long forms ay, bee, see... if you're talking about pronunciation. "How do you pronounce the first syllable of either - eye or ee ?"
     

    Linguisticks

    Senior Member
    English - Australia
    I write A as A, B as B, etc.:) I've never seen letters of the alphabet written any other way by a native speaker...
    Nor have I, except once in a text about mystical beliefs, where the writer was expressing his intention to "eff the ineffable". But I'm cheating a little, as it's the syllable rather than the letter that's highlighted here.
     
    < Previous | Next >
    Top