Once upon a time, there was a letter named Ethel. Being a nice, helpful little letter, Ethel helped people write words like coil. Words with an “oi” sound. So like any vowel worth its salt, Ethel lived her days helping people understand words – because that was her purpose. That’s what made her happy.
And life was good. People came to her when they needed a specific job done, she did it, and honestly, she thought the biggest conflict in her life would be deciding whether she was a diphthong or a hiatus (if you don’t like linguistics jokes, you’re in the wrong place!).
Then, everything went wrong. O and I started marketing to Ethel’s customers. “Why have another letter?” they asked. “We can help you make that sound and make your life easier at the same time!”
At first, Ethel thought she didn’t have anything to worry about. After all, who wants a letter that can be pronounced different ways? That was so silly! Her customers would surely realize how much simpler language was with a letter for each sound!
But they didn’t. Fewer and fewer people came to Ethel when they needed an oi sound. Soon, no one even knew her name, and when she told people what she did, they stared at her in puzzlement, “But that’s what O and I do!” Then, O talked to Y, and people began to have more and more options – options that didn’t include Ethel.
From then on, Ethel grew quieter and quieter, fading into the background, until only a few scholars even knew she’d ever existed.
No, seriously. There was a letter named Ethel that represented the sound now made by combining o and i. That’s right. A letter named Ethel. Ponder that for a minute. When you’re done giggling, we’ll move on (Seriously? A letter named Ethel? Is there one named Agnes? Or Roger?).
Once you get over the name (and since it took me a weird, random short story to do that, I get it), start thinking about the fact that our alphabet used to have a letter that has long been forgotten. In fact, we used to have 6 more letters in our alphabet. That’s right. 6.
- Ash, and
It sounds like an ancient version of Snow White (or maybe “Snow White and Rose Red”). Maybe, with a “Hansel and Gretel” crossover.
Anyone want to write a fairytale about 6 lost letters?