As strange as it sounds, the English alphabet had several more letters than the present 26 letters in the past few hundred years. Six more letters to be exact, including Ethel and Yogh (yup, those were the real names for “oi” sound, like in “coin,” and “kh” sound like in “Loch Ness Monster” respectively).
Linguistics experts say that modern streamlining and the mixing of the cultures of Northern Europe are responsible for the loss of these letters.
Furthermore, some former letters had significance. For instance, Eth and Ash are still used as part of the phonemic chart used for pronunciation,but they are however absent on keyboards or use in day-to-day life.
The reason is because they’ve generally been phased out and replaced by letters that do double duty, either by already addressing the sounds in question or by making the desired sounds when combined with other standard, existing letters.
If you’re wondering whether our current alphabet will keep shrinking, linguistic experts believe there is no reason to worry about that anytime soon. Standardized spelling makes it less likely for that to happen than when Middle English was turning into Modern English.
If you’re wondering about the six letters that no longer form part of the Alphabets, read on below.
In its original form, eth was pronounced like the th sound in words like this, that or the, or then.
Thorn was also pronounced with a th sound, but in a softer manner. Imagine using the th sound in the least aggressive way possible, with it rolling smoothly from behind your teeth.
This was the precursor to today’s uu; it lost favour when writers and printing presses started smushing two trendier u letters together.
The English language perhaps owe the existence of this letter to the Scots, however briefly it stayed. Think of the ch sound in Loch Ness Monster, or the way you’d pronounce the ch in “challah bread.”
you will be surprised to learn that this letter is still used in modern Danish. If you’re interested in partying with this antique, head straight to Denmark. Otherwise, just know that it was a short vowel sound in Old English, like the strange love child of a short a and a short e, like when you can’t tell if someone said “pat” or “pet.”
Ethel was similar to Ash in that it was a strange hybrid but was pronounced like the “oi” in “join.”