Slavic languages and others: name of letters

Discussion in 'All Languages' started by Encolpius, Feb 2, 2013.

  1. Encolpius

    Encolpius Senior Member

    Praha (Prague)
    magyar (Hungarian)
    Hello, are Czech&Slovak the only languages on Earth that have names of letters? I am afraid it does not exist even in the rest of Slavic languages but want to give it a try, so ask you if you have also names for letters similar to the names of numbers what we have discusses earlier.
    What am I talking about? Here are the concrete nouns for letters in Czech:
    a - áčko
    b - béčko
    c - céčko
    d - déčko
    e - efko
    So, e.g.. áčko is a of neuter gender and you can decline it: áčko, áčka, áčku, o áčku, áčkem....

    So, do you have it in your language?

  2. BezierCurve Senior Member

    There are a few examples in Polish too, but they are limited to specific range of letters (like, for example, the sizes in clothing). They tend to be of feminine gender. From what I've encountered so far we use:

    l - elka (a piece of clothing of size L)
    n - enka (when you mark one's absence, for example at school or at work, which comes from "nieobecność" - "absence");
    m - emka (size M)
    r - erka (an ambulance, which we used to mark with a capital leter R, probably originating from "ratunek"/"resque" (pogotowie ratunkowe));
    s - eska (size S)
    z - zetka (the colloqiual name for a popular station (Radio Z));
  3. Encolpius

    Encolpius Senior Member

    Praha (Prague)
    magyar (Hungarian)
    Oh, very interesting Polish comment. :thumbsup:
  4. VelikiMag Senior Member

    Serbian - Montenegro
    Probably not. As far as I know, all the letters of Greek alphabet have names. In Arabic also. There must be some others too.

    Apart from languages, there are systems in which letters have names. This is a famous one. I believe that names are formed in such a way that if you didn't hear the first sound but only the rest of the word (sometimes it happens in radio communication), you will still be able to tell which word/letter it was. Unlike in Czech where "-(é)čko" doesn't say much. :)
  5. Encolpius

    Encolpius Senior Member

    Praha (Prague)
    magyar (Hungarian)
    Oh, I forgot completely the non-Latin alphabets. So Czech is not unique.
    So, there are no names in BSC what I've learnt.
    Last edited: Feb 2, 2013
  6. Tassos

    Tassos Senior Member

    Indeed they do.
    Α - άλφα (alpha)
    Β - βήτα (beta)
    Γ - γάμμα (gamma) etc.
    As you can see some of the letters' names are actually used as full-fledged words in languages such as English.
  7. marco_2 Senior Member

    In Old-Church-Slavonic the letters had their names and they were used in tsarist Russia: az, buki, wiedi and so on, hence the word азбука.
  8. BezierCurve Senior Member

    Hebrew and Arabic are another example, if we go outside the Roman script.
  9. marco_2 Senior Member

    In my home city fast buses are marked with letters and two of them (bus A and bus F) are called by people aśka and efka.
  10. fdb Senior Member

    Cambridge, UK
    French (France)
    The letters of the alphabet have names in all languages, but in many languages they are not normally spelt out. For example in English you write "a, b, c" etc., but you pronounce the names as "a, bee, cee" etc.
  11. Encolpius

    Encolpius Senior Member

    Praha (Prague)
    magyar (Hungarian)
    Interesting, I expected Polish to have similar names, too bad, you don't call the whole alphabet like that...
  12. BezierCurve Senior Member

    I was going to write about these too, but then we also had B and C - baśka / ceśka - which were simply female names assigned to each letter. Then again, efka sort of breaks that pattern.
  13. Encolpius

    Encolpius Senior Member

    Praha (Prague)
    magyar (Hungarian)
    Of course, so my question is, is there any other language expect Czech & Slovak which use 2 terms for each letter, i.e. you can say á or áčko, bé or béčko, ef or efko, etc... I hope now all doubts will disappear.
  14. Maroseika Moderator

    In Russian school classes of the same level are called using letters, if there are more than one (such as 5А, 5Б, 5В). So the pupils of these classes are called ашки (ашники), бэшки (бэшники), etc. Don't know how far it can go, but I heard even of class 2Я...
    Besides, many things having separate letters in the name, are shortened to the derivates of these letters by use of suffix -эшка.
    Other derivates:
    Tram A in Moscow - Аннушка
    Tram Б - Букашка
    Bus К - кашка
    Car BMW - бэха
    Car ГазМ1 - эмка.
  15. bibax Senior Member

    Czech (Prague)
    The nouns áčko, béčko, etc. are NOT used as a spelling alphabet in (radio)telephony (we use Adam, Božena, Cyril,...). Even the Greeks do not use their alphabet as a spelling alphabet (pi is Petros, zeta is Zeus, for example).

    In Czech the nouns áčko, ..., zetko denotes objects that are marked with a letter (e.g. classes in a school, pavilions in a hospital, music notes, vitamins, etc.).


    Chodíš do áčka? Ne, do déčka. (classes in school)
    Místo háčka hraješ béčko. (music notes)
    Programuji v céčku. (programming language C)
    V Lize mistrů béčko Dortmundu porazilo Manchester City. (B-team)
    V zimě užívám céčko. (vitamin C)
    Audi Q3: nejmenší kvéčko.
    Nemáš nějaké péčko? (porno, also pervitin = methamphetamine)
    Nemáš éčko? (ecstasy)
    Éčka v potravinách. (food additives)

    :idea: Context is always important.

    Elko, íčko, véčko, téčko, iksko, ... also denotes shapes of objects.
    Example: Dáme tam íčko nebo téčko? (I-beam or T-beam)

    The derived adjectives: áčkový, béčkový, céčkový, ..., zetkový.
    Example: Dávali béčkový americký film.
    Last edited: Feb 2, 2013
  16. Encolpius

    Encolpius Senior Member

    Praha (Prague)
    magyar (Hungarian)
    Very interesting Russian comment. Now I wonder if there are expressions like ашники, бэшники in Czech? Let's wait for natives. I'd say áčkaři, béčkaři, but haven't heard it.
  17. bibax Senior Member

    Czech (Prague)
    I have found:

    Do první třídy nás nastoupilo 35 a byli jsme „efčáci“, za námi bylo ještě géčko a háčko.

    Thus áčáci, béčáci, céčáci, (sing. áčák) ... very informal. :rolleyes:

    áčkaři, béčkaři, céčkaři, ... also possible.

    Áčkaři are also anonymous alcoholics (AAA = Association of Anonymous Alcoholics).
  18. Encolpius

    Encolpius Senior Member

    Praha (Prague)
    magyar (Hungarian)
    Ups, all languages!? Believe it or not Hungarian does not have the thing what the Czechs language does.
    I think we will have at least one other answer from Hellas, I wonder if alpha, beta...atc also can indicate things and do they decline it???!!!
  19. fdb Senior Member

    Cambridge, UK
    French (France)
    The Greek letter names are indeclinable, but the Arabic ones are declinable in all three cases (ʼalifun, ʼalifin, ʼalifan).
  20. arielipi Senior Member

    How can you not have name for a letter? How do you address it when you want to spell someone?
  21. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)
    There are letter names (with their own spelling) in Portuguese: á, , , , é, efe...
  22. bibax Senior Member

    Czech (Prague)
    I have the impression that the original Encolpius's question was meant some other way.

    Can you use "bê" as a general substitutive name for any object that is marked by the letter B (like bus line, pavilion, etc.)?

    In Czech the name of letter B is (pronounced be: or bε: ), but the noun (declinable, neuter gender) denoting any object marked with the letter B is béčko.

    Jedu béčkem. = I am going with B. (possible meaning: metro line B)
    Jsem z béčka. = I am from B. (possible meaning: class B in a school, department B, etc.)
    Slavia porazila representační béčko. = Slavia defeated national B. (meaning: B-team)

    There are also derived nouns and adjectives:

    béčkař (masc. noun) - possible meaning: a student from class B;
    béčkový (adj.) - possible meaning: of the class B, of the series B, ...;
  23. rusita preciosa

    rusita preciosa Modus forendi

    USA (Φιλαδέλφεια)
    Russian (Moscow)
    Modern Russian does not have names for most letters, it is just A (ah), Б (be) В (ve) etc…

    Only a few characters have a separate name, like Й (и краткое – short i); Ь (мягкий знак – soft sign); Ъ (твёрдый знак – hard sign).

    Sometimes to distinguish E and Э that have similar pronunciation in some words, Э is called э оборотное (e reversed).

    Old Russian had a name for each letter like in Greek: A (az), Б (buki), В (vedi) etc…
  24. Encolpius

    Encolpius Senior Member

    Praha (Prague)
    magyar (Hungarian)
    I think no one (non-Slavonic members) will understand the issue what the Czech phenomenon describes. It is really HARD to explain & understand phenomenons like it. I remember the Spanish/Portuguese/Hungarian words for a godfather in the godchildren's parents view. If you do not have a WORD it is a tough nut to crack indeed.
  25. arielipi Senior Member

    What do you mean by name for a letter?
  26. Encolpius

    Encolpius Senior Member

    Praha (Prague)
    magyar (Hungarian)
    If you see a big brown horse in the street what can you say to your child: What is this? What's the name of this animal? Your child will answer: This is a horse.
    If you bake a big birthday cake of the shape of the letter A (your son's name is Adam), then the letter A is not a letter any longer, but a THING, a birthday cake, just like a horse or bus, or banknote. Then you can ask your son what's this, and since he has learnt reading at school already, he can say, it is an A [ei]. But English (and many other languages) makes no difference between letters and things resembling letters, while some languages do. Easy as pie. It works with the numbers as well. if the child is 6 years old, you bake a birthday cake of the shape of the number 6, then you do not use the word which you use when counting: one, two, three... but other words.....
    On the other hand if you see a picture with a horse and you ask your son what it is. He says: it is a horse. You can answer, yes, you are brave, but you can say, it is wrong, it is not a horse, it is just a piece of paper, a picture, the horse is an animal in the street. :D Some languages consider things in a different way.
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2013
  27. arielipi Senior Member

    Then yes, every letter in the hebrew alphabet has a name.
    khet = /x/et
    kaf/ chaf
  28. Encolpius

    Encolpius Senior Member

    Praha (Prague)
    magyar (Hungarian)
    Of course, just like all languages. But some languages, like Czech has 2 names, one for counting only and the other one for things marked with that letter....
  29. arielipi Senior Member

    Ohhhh! i get it now, we simply say its of the shape of the letter.
    kof is monkey.
    we have some more, is that what you mean?
  30. Encolpius

    Encolpius Senior Member

    Praha (Prague)
    magyar (Hungarian)
    Kof as monkey sounds interesting...
    I am sorry I think I cannot explain it. :)
  31. Määränpää

    Määränpää Senior Member

    In Finnish, only the letters whose short names end with a consonant have a second, longer form. Only the form that ends with a vowel is declinable.

    F - äf - äffä
    L - äl - ällä
    M - äm - ämmä
    N - än - ännä
    R - är - ärrä (a kiosk that belongs to the R-kioski chain is often called "Ärrä")
    S - äs - ässä (an S-shaped cinnamon cookie is called "kaneliässä")
    X - äks - äksä
    Last edited: Feb 9, 2013

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