Z ZzzzHow do you pronounce the letter "Z"? If you say Z so that it rhymes with bee, then chances are you're an American. But if you say Zed, as in Ed wets the bed, then you're most likely from the British Isles or one of the other English speaking, probably commonwealth, countries of the world; Australia, New Zealand, Canada. Places where the Queen's portrait hangs on the classroom wall, and peers down at perps in your local constabulary. Actually I hear Canadians are mixed on the subject of Z, they're so nice and accommodating they go both ways.
While there's not a right or wrong way to say it, as those of us who live in America say, the letter is derived from the Greek letter 'zeta' and most other countries pronounce it similarly to the British way. Zéde in French, Zet in German, Zeta in Italian. While the way we say it in the states—Zee, rhyming with bee and oh gee—isn't exactly wrong, it's not right either. It's just different.
Viva la difference, right? Except when you're a little kid. Kids just want to be the same as all the other kids, to fit in, to blend. Easier said than done if you're a child transferring to a new school in the middle of the school year, especially if you're coming from an English school to an American school. Back in the 50's, when my family left England for Tripoli, Libya, the Zee/Zed dilemma caused my big brother no end of grief. He was going to school on the American Airforce base, Wheelus, sitting alongside the sons and daughters of American air force pilots but he was a little British boy through and through. It was like plopping down Charles Dicken's Oliver in the middle of a Leave it to Beaver episode.To the other kids' ears my brother Russell already talked funny and used the wrong word for things. He called trucks 'lorries' and said 'porridge' when he meant oatmeal. And he didn't even know how to say the alphabet right. The simplest thing in the world. Even babies knew the alphabet.
"Zed! Teacher, teacher, he doesn't even know how to say Z!"
"We say Zee" the teacher told him, patiently teaching him the correct way, the American way. By the time he finally got it into his thick skull, he'd acquired a taste for french fries rather than chips, American westerns, and a coveted Davy Crockett hat. And he'd mostly muffled his British accent. He didn't sound like an American but he didn't sound like a Brit either.
He wasn't one thing or the other, as he discovered when we went back to England a few years later. Just as the American children had snickered, so did the English children, refusing to believe he was British, just like them.
"You're a Yank!" they giggled at his Zee and his hybridized accent.
"I'm not!" I imagine him getting red in the face, stamping his sock & sandaled foot.
Ah, but the proof is in the pudding. And pudding, in case you didn't know, isn't just pudding to a Brit, pudding is anything that we Yanks call dessert.
Pot—AY—to, Pot—AH—to, Tom—AY—to, Tom—AH—to, Zee, Zed. Let's call the whole thing off.
Finally! Zee VS Zed is my last, final tardy, tardy, tardy entry into the April #AtoZChallenge. The Letter Z! Project complete.