ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ. Seriously, why? Why in the name of all that is holy does M have to come before N? This specific order is one of the first things we learn in school, but we never ask why! I understand why numbers need to be in a specific order. They’re numbers, that’s why. But letters don’t represent quantity. They are simply symbols used to make words. They don’t have to be in any particular order. If you scrambled the entire alphabet and started teaching the new scrambled order of letters in elementary schools, what difference would it make? An R is still an R no matter where you put it in the sequence. It still has the same properties. Pirates will still say Arrrr. Of course, if we rearrange the alphabet, that would mess up some things. Dictionaries would definitely have to be rearranged. But regardless, it all just seems so… random.
To solve this particular mystery, we need to go back in time. In ancient Egypt, the workers and slaves (you know them… those lowly workers who built the pyramids and farmed the land along the Nile river) were not given the opportunity to learn the complex system of hieroglyphics used there. So, they developed their own basic system of symbols, which turned out to be the basis of almost all modern alphabets used today. The Egyptians eventually started using this system, and the Phoenicians (a group of seafaring traders who lived on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea) took the system of symbols and developed it into the first fully formed alphabet. The Greeks adapted it for their needs (providing us with those letters you see on fraternity and sorority houses today), and the Romans borrowed it from the Greeks and eventually turned it into the alphabet we still use today. By the way… the Romans took the letters Y and Z, moved them from the front of the alphabet (where the Greeks had them), and stuck them at the end. The written Roman language led to Old English, which led to Middle English, which led to the modern English used today.
So, back to the original question… why are the letters in the specific order as we know it? The answer? We don’t exactly know for sure. Language historians disagree. Some think it goes back to the Egyptians and how they arranged their hieroglyphics. Others think the letters used to have numbers assigned to them, and they were simply arranged in numerical order. Those numbers were lost over time, but the basic order of the letters remains. Some psychologists think it is because this particular order was chosen due to it being easy to memorize because of the nice bouncy cadence of the sounds. This last idea may seem far-fetched, but if you think about it, there’s no doubt that the order of the letters is easy to pronounce and to memorize. To me, it’s kind of like supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. This word was carefully created to be easy to memorize and pronounce. Just like the alphabet.
- Cookie cutter alphabet - DepositPhotos
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