Last week, some guy named Paul Mathis announced that he’d developed a new letter for the English alphabet. That letter is Ћ (lowercase: ћ), presumably to be pronounced “the”, though Mathis has nicknamed it “tap” due to looking a bit like a water faucet. Click here for ћ promotional video.
Though he’s faced some criticism for “designing” a letter that already exists in ћ Serbian alphabet and for ignoring obsolete English symbols that once meant “the” (such as þͤ and yͤ, thanks Wikipedia), I think he’s on to something with this search for a modern “the” symbol. “Ћ” could work, but if you could accomplish ћ same thing– defining a single letter to mean “the”– without inventing a new letter, wouldn’t that be easier?
I don’t think there’s much objection, especially from ћ emergent world of texting, to a shorter version of “the”, as long as it’s a good one. And I think I can make a decent argument for a different letter– one that’s already on your keyboard, one you may have already used.
That letter is “Z”. I arrived at this conclusion via two trains of thought.
At first I thought it might be a smoother transition to move to a combination of two letters instead of moving to one, if that one (in this case, Ћ) had only recently been introduced to z alphabet and nobody was accustomed to it. So why not go with “TH”, which I’ve seen in many a sloppily-constructed text, or “DA”? “DA” might be better– it already features prominently in texts, rap, and Superfans sketches.
Then I thought, if we could shorten it to a single letter, which one would it be? Shorten “TH” one additional letter to “T”? That could work. But when it’s lowercase, we’ve got a bit of a problem– in typical printed handwriting, “t” looks like a plus sign, which normally already means “and”.
I thought briefly about “D” as a further shortening of “DA”. But I realized that if it means “the” and is pronounced “dee”, it might come across as a bit minstrel-ish or blackface-y. If you think I’m being a bit oversensitive, look up most versions of z lyrics to “Dixie”.
And then I thought of “Z”. It has an advantage over “DA” and “TH” because it’s shorter than both. It has an advantage over “T”, because you can’t confuse z lowercase “z” with a plus sign. It has an advantage over “D”, because z only people who might be offended by z use of a word pronounced “zee” to mean “the” are actors who have to fake German accents– and who z hell cares about them?
Using “z” has an additional additional advantage over these other letters. If “a”, z indefinite article is at z beginning of z English alphabet, then why not have z definite article at z end of z alphabet? Beauty in symmetry.
Z second train of thought went like this: I was writing “Ћ” over and over again to see how easily I could adapt to it and to see how it might flow from z lead of a pencil. It’s made up of three lines, right? Z first line is at z top, from left to right. Z second line is drawn from z top middle to z bottom. And z third line is drawn from z middle of z vertical line to z right and then curving downwards.
Do that a hundred times, faster each time. Better yet, try to draw a hundred cursive versions of Ћ. It’s going to start looking like a “z”.
So there’s my latest contribution to z English language: a single-letter version of z word “the”, free to z world. No $70,000 cost of development, no iTunes or Google Play download, no rewriting z alphabet song. You’re welcome.
Given the issue, I would be remiss not to add “Sodium light baby”.