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  #1  
Old 03-05-2007, 11:55 AM
magnvs magnvs is offline
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Why is the alphabet in alphabetical order?

This is a question to the article, Why is the alphabet in alphabetical order?

specifically:
Quote:
Later Greeks added letters to the end, two of which interest us: chi, ancestral X, which over time acquired our modern "ks" sound...
I had always thought that Xi is where we get the 'ks' sound and that the glyph for Chi is only inherited as our letter 'X' but is otherwise unrelated... am I wrong here?
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  #2  
Old 03-05-2007, 12:22 PM
John W. Kennedy John W. Kennedy is offline
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Neither English nor Latin nor Etruscan is descended from Greek, so it is meaningless to say that "we get the 'ks' sound" from any Greek letter at all.

As to the history of the alphabet, itself, ancient Greek had many dialects, which differed rather more than English speakers think of "dialects" as differing. In the western dialect that the Etruscans got the alphabet from, chi was pronounced "ks" at the time.

On this whole subject, see the trs kewl animations at http://www.wam.umd.edu/~rfradkin/alphapage.html
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Old 03-05-2007, 01:21 PM
IvoryTowerDenizen IvoryTowerDenizen is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John W. Kennedy
Neither English nor Latin nor Etruscan is descended from Greek, so it is meaningless to say that "we get the 'ks' sound" from any Greek letter at all.

As to the history of the alphabet, itself, ancient Greek had many dialects, which differed rather more than English speakers think of "dialects" as differing. In the western dialect that the Etruscans got the alphabet from, chi was pronounced "ks" at the time.

On this whole subject, see the trs kewl animations at http://www.wam.umd.edu/~rfradkin/alphapage.html

Excellent web site! I just wasted way too much time playing with the animations.

Very cool.
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  #4  
Old 03-05-2007, 01:38 PM
Hahathor Hahathor is offline
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Actually, why ISN'T it in alphabetical order?

I'm more intrigued by the fact that the alphabet isn't in alphabetical order. By my reckoning, the English alphabet would be alphabetized as follows: Aitch (h), Ar (r), Bee (b), Cue (q), Dee (d), Double-you (w), Eee (e), Eff (f), Eh (a), Ell (l), Em (m), En (n), Ess (s), Ex (x), Eye (I), Gee (g), Jay (j), Owe (o), Pee (p), Quay (k), See (c), Tee (t), Vee (v), Why (y), You (u), Zee (z). I don't know why thiw should be so.
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Old 03-05-2007, 01:53 PM
magnvs magnvs is offline
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that makes sense. i'd forgotten that the different greek dialects had such great variance in pronounciation. thanks for the insight!
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Old 03-05-2007, 05:56 PM
John W. Kennedy John W. Kennedy is offline
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By the way, have we any medievalists here? Was there any traditional ordering for thorn (, ), eth (, ), ash (, ), wynn (Ƿ, ƿ), and yogh (Ȝ, ȝ)?
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  #7  
Old 03-05-2007, 09:51 PM
Exapno Mapcase Exapno Mapcase is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hahathor
I'm more intrigued by the fact that the alphabet isn't in alphabetical order. By my reckoning, the English alphabet would be alphabetized as follows: Aitch (h), Ar (r), Bee (b), Cue (q), Dee (d), Double-you (w), Eee (e), Eff (f), Eh (a), Ell (l), Em (m), En (n), Ess (s), Ex (x), Eye (I), Gee (g), Jay (j), Owe (o), Pee (p), Quay (k), See (c), Tee (t), Vee (v), Why (y), You (u), Zee (z). I don't know why thiw should be so.
Because each language pronounces its letters in a different fashion, so you would have a separate alphabetization for each.

For example, Spanish:
A: a
B: be
C: ce
CH: che
D: de
E: e
F: efe
G: ge
H: hache
I: i
J: jota
K: ka
L: ele
LL: elle
M: eme
N: ene
: ee
O: o
P: pe
Q: cu
R: ere
S: ese
T: te
U: u
V: ve
W: doble u
X: equis
Y: i griega
Z: zeta
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  #8  
Old 03-05-2007, 11:03 PM
cuauhtemoc cuauhtemoc is offline
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You've all got it wrong. The order of the alphabet is derived from that song. You know, the one that goes "A B C D E F G..."
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  #9  
Old 03-06-2007, 06:23 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hahathor
I'm more intrigued by the fact that the alphabet isn't in alphabetical order. By my reckoning, the English alphabet would be alphabetized as follows: Aitch (h), Ar (r), Bee (b), Cue (q), Dee (d), Double-you (w), Eee (e), Eff (f), Eh (a), Ell (l), Em (m), En (n), Ess (s), Ex (x), Eye (I), Gee (g), Jay (j), Owe (o), Pee (p), Quay (k), See (c), Tee (t), Vee (v), Why (y), You (u), Zee (z). I don't know why thiw should be so.
I... I really hope you're joking.
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  #10  
Old 03-06-2007, 09:25 AM
Nature's Call Nature's Call is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hahathor
I'm more intrigued by the fact that the alphabet isn't in alphabetical order. By my reckoning, the English alphabet would be alphabetized as follows: Aitch (h), Ar (r), Bee (b), Cue (q), Dee (d), Double-you (w), Eee (e), Eff (f), Eh (a), Ell (l), Em (m), En (n), Ess (s), Ex (x), Eye (I), Gee (g), Jay (j), Owe (o), Pee (p), Quay (k), See (c), Tee (t), Vee (v), Why (y), You (u), Zee (z). I don't know why thiw should be so.
That's damned funny (recursion alert!)
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  #11  
Old 09-16-2012, 05:45 AM
Katharina Katharina is offline
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I am about to write a BA Thesis in linguistics and am looking for lots of stuff on the Internet. And I think that this thing about the alphabetical order is quite interesting. However, when I googled the same (thread) question I found this page first of all:

http://www.straightdope.com/columns/...abetical-order

So, who is this Cecile that wrote the answere and where did she get these information from? Perhaps she has got some book recommendations ...

@ Hahathor: the idea of a different alphabetical order for the English language is pretty interesting. Where did you get that from?

Last edited by Katharina; 09-16-2012 at 05:47 AM..
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  #12  
Old 09-16-2012, 07:11 AM
C K Dexter Haven C K Dexter Haven is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Katharina View Post
So, who is this Cecile that wrote the answere and where did she get these information from? Perhaps she has got some book recommendations ...
Um. Cecil Adams is the author of the Straight Dope columns, upon which this website is based. He writes a newspaper column, syndicated among many alternate newspapers throughout the US. By the nature of the newspaper column, there's not room to provide sources, so he generally doesn't. (In fact, he dictates most columns without sources because he's a genius, and then staff spend lots of time doing research to back up and verify what he's said.)

However, other posters here may have recommendations for you.
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  #13  
Old 09-19-2012, 05:24 PM
Freakenstein Freakenstein is offline
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Letters , and are placed last in Finnish and Swedish alphabet, but in German is mixed with A and with O and ( which F&S don't have ) with U, so the order isn't really that fixed ( maybe in German they are all 'umlaut' and really not same letters as in F&S ). Also V and W used to be mixed in Finnish and Swedish dictionaries.

Then again in Finnish language there isn't letters B, C, F, Q, W, X, Z and .

Ouch, I just realized this is a zombie thread...

Last edited by Freakenstein; 09-19-2012 at 05:26 PM..
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  #14  
Old 09-19-2012, 05:58 PM
John W. Kennedy John W. Kennedy is offline
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Sometimes (but not always) German alphabetizes “” as equal to “ae”, “” as equal to “oe”, and “” as equal to “ue”. There are other mysteries. For example, English usually alphabetizes space before “a”, but US telephone directories alphabetize it after “z”, while some others treat spaces as nullities.
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  #15  
Old 09-19-2012, 07:44 PM
Chronos Chronos is offline
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Quote:
Quoth Hahathor:

I'm more intrigued by the fact that the alphabet isn't in alphabetical order. By my reckoning, the English alphabet would be alphabetized as follows: Aitch (h), Ar (r), Bee (b), Cue (q), Dee (d), Double-you (w), Eee (e), Eff (f), Eh (a), Ell (l), Em (m), En (n), Ess (s), Ex (x), Eye (I), Gee (g), Jay (j), Owe (o), Pee (p), Quay (k), See (c), Tee (t), Vee (v), Why (y), You (u), Zee (z). I don't know why thiw should be so.
One of the things I like about the Greek alphabet is that every letter starts with itself. So they wouldn't have this issue.
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  #16  
Old 09-20-2012, 12:22 AM
Little Nemo Little Nemo is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hahathor View Post
I'm more intrigued by the fact that the alphabet isn't in alphabetical order. By my reckoning, the English alphabet would be alphabetized as follows: Aitch (h), Ar (r), Bee (b), Cue (q), Dee (d), Double-you (w), Eee (e), Eff (f), Eh (a), Ell (l), Em (m), En (n), Ess (s), Ex (x), Eye (I), Gee (g), Jay (j), Owe (o), Pee (p), Quay (k), See (c), Tee (t), Vee (v), Why (y), You (u), Zee (z). I don't know why thiw should be so.
According to your system, the alphabetical order of the letters should be: Bee (b), Quay (k), Dee (d), Double-you (w), Why (y), Eh (a), Eee (e), Eff (f), Ell (l), Em (m), En (n), Ess (s), Ex (x), Eye (I), Ar (r), Aitch (h), See (c), Gee (g), Jay (j), Owe (o), Pee (p), Cue (q), Tee (t), Vee (v), You (u), Zee (z).
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  #17  
Old 11-09-2012, 06:01 PM
tavaritz tavaritz is offline
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Originally Posted by Freakenstein View Post
Letters , and are placed last in Finnish and Swedish alphabet, but in German is mixed with A and with O and ( which F&S don't have ) with U, so the order isn't really that fixed ( maybe in German they are all 'umlaut' and really not same letters as in F&S ). Also V and W used to be mixed in Finnish and Swedish dictionaries.

Then again in Finnish language there isn't letters B, C, F, Q, W, X, Z and .

Ouch, I just realized this is a zombie thread...
As a finn I'd like to comment here. We can nitpick about what is finnish and what's not, but the ethymological dictionary of finnish language tells us that more than 90% of words we use in everyday language are loans.

So B is found in in "bisse" (beer), F is found in "finni" (zit) and Z is found in "zetaa" (sleep).

What comes to others: C is translittered to K as in "Kokis" (Coke) or S as in "shekki" (check), Q is translittered to KV as in "kveekari" (quacker), W is actually used in names but it's pronounced just like V and all loan words substitute V, X is always translittered to KS as in "taksi" (taxi) and finally is in written finnish just fancy way to write O as in "tatk?" (Will you wait?), which implies that the speaker is a finnish-swede speaking finnish.

As all those 'foreign' characters can exist in name in written finnish alpahebetization follows the anglosaxon norm with the following execeptions: V and W are not differentiated and , , and are added into the end.

This causes problems in spreadsheet and database programs: You want to nationalize them so that you can alphabetize those 's and 's correctly but you don't want to because you want to alpahabetize V and W separately.

Btw. The shortest entry in Helsinki phonebook used to be Bo.

Then two more nitpicks:

1, Of course all those characters from A to Z and , and included are part of finnish language as in finnish language they are the words that represent themselves. So if someone says that Q is not in any finnish word then she is wrong as "Q" is the finnish name of the lettter Q.

2. The whole original question is quite stupid. Alphabeth is in alphabetical order because alphabet is a sequence which order has the name alphabetical order. The proper question is: Why is alphabet in that particular order?

Last edited by tavaritz; 11-09-2012 at 06:03 PM..
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  #18  
Old 11-10-2012, 05:02 PM
John W. Kennedy John W. Kennedy is offline
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Nobody knows how the order of the alphabet arose. It may have simply started with a popular primer (“See Abuwtiyuw Run”). It goes back at least 3400 years. There have been various small changes as it evolved from Ugaritic to Phoenician to Greek to Etruscan to Archaic Latin to Classical and Medieval Latin to the various modern European alphabets, but the origins are nearly prehistoric.
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Old 11-11-2012, 07:25 AM
C K Dexter Haven C K Dexter Haven is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John W. Kennedy View Post
Nobody knows how the order of the alphabet arose. It may have simply started with a popular primer (See Abuwtiyuw Run). It goes back at least 3400 years. There have been various small changes as it evolved from Ugaritic to Phoenician to Greek to Etruscan to Archaic Latin to Classical and Medieval Latin to the various modern European alphabets, but the origins are nearly prehistoric.
So the story that my father told me about how the letters were arranged in the chronological order that they were invented, probably not true, eh?
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Old 11-11-2012, 07:51 AM
bibliophage bibliophage is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Katharina View Post
So, who is this Cecile that wrote the answere and where did she get these information from? Perhaps she has got some book recommendations ...?
A good place to start is Letter Perfect by David Sacks.
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  #21  
Old 11-12-2012, 10:43 AM
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Originally Posted by C K Dexter Haven View Post
So the story that my father told me about how the letters were arranged in the chronological order that they were invented, probably not true, eh?
Not really true, but there might be a small element of truth to it. As new letters were developed, it does stand to reason that they were mostly tacked onto the end of the alphabet.

But only mostly. Many derivative letters -- like V, W, and J -- were placed directly after their progenitors.


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  #22  
Old 11-12-2012, 11:23 AM
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I would have hoped that Kipling would have a Just So story to explain it all.

Last edited by Senegoid; 11-12-2012 at 11:23 AM..
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  #23  
Old 11-12-2012, 01:33 PM
Freakenstein Freakenstein is offline
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tavaritz
You can't be serious.

Quote:
the ethymological dictionary of finnish language tells us that more than 90% of words we use in everyday language are loans.
Cite?

Quote:
So B is found in in "bisse" (beer), F is found in "finni" (zit) and Z is found in "zetaa" (sleep).
I'll concede finni as it has become more or less official ( in literary Finnish there are other 'F-words' too, but they are very little changed from an original foreign word, also there are some in local dialects. ) 'Bisse' is a slang word that's hardly ever written, and almost always folks use word 'kalja' for beer. 'Zetaa' - never heard, although the meaning is pretty obvious.

Quote:
What comes to others: C is translittered to K as in "Kokis" (Coke) or S as in "shekki" (check), Q is translittered to KV as in "kveekari" (quacker), W is actually used in names but it's pronounced just like V and all loan words substitute V, X is always translittered to KS as in "taksi" (taxi)
As they are transliterated they are not valid examples.

Quote:
and finally is in written finnish just fancy way to write O as in "tatk?" (Will you wait?), which implies that the speaker is a finnish-swede speaking finnish.
That is an obvious joke. You probably made it up while You were writing this.

Quote:
As all those 'foreign' characters can exist in name in written finnish alpahebetization follows the anglosaxon norm with the following execeptions: V and W are not differentiated and , , and are added into the end.
If I understand this correctly, You are saying that Finns write some names with these letters, so they must be part of Finnish alphabet. This is of course rubbish, by Your logic Swedish alphabet should include (for id - which has very different meaning than ide ). And since Finnish alphabet is borrowed from Sweden, Finnish alphabet should also have ... And You know Finns actually write some names with , so...

Quote:
This causes problems in spreadsheet and database programs: You want to nationalize them so that you can alphabetize those 's and 's correctly but you don't want to because you want to alpahabetize V and W separately.
This probably meant something in Your head while You wrote it, but I can't decipher it.

Quote:
Btw. The shortest entry in Helsinki phonebook used to be Bo.
Phonebooks are listing names of people and places, not actual Finnish language itself.

Quote:
Then two more nitpicks:

1, Of course all those characters from A to Z and , and included are part of finnish language as in finnish language they are the words that represent themselves. So if someone says that Q is not in any finnish word then she is wrong as "Q" is the finnish name of the lettter Q.
Wouldn't that be transliterated 'KVUU' and therefore not included in itself?

Quote:
2. The whole original question is quite stupid. Alphabeth is in alphabetical order because alphabet is a sequence which order has the name alphabetical order. The proper question is: Why is alphabet in that particular order?
Read th riginl clumn by Th Mst...
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  #24  
Old 11-12-2012, 07:46 PM
John W. Kennedy John W. Kennedy is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Powers View Post
Not really true, but there might be a small element of truth to it. As new letters were developed, it does stand to reason that they were mostly tacked onto the end of the alphabet.

But only mostly. Many derivative letters -- like V, W, and J -- were placed directly after their progenitors.
And G (derived from C) was put into the empty space left when Z was removed. (Z was later put back at the end to spell Greek words with, after Y, which was added for the same reason. But U was put at the end when it was derived from F, and X was put at the end, too.)

But the alphabet could not have been of any use until it was adequate. It did not grow by starting with zero letters and slowly adding one at a time.
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Old 11-12-2012, 07:47 PM
John W. Kennedy John W. Kennedy is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Senegoid View Post
I would have hoped that Kipling would have a Just So story to explain it all.
He literally did, but he didnt include the ordering.
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Old 11-13-2012, 04:27 PM
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Originally Posted by John W. Kennedy View Post
He literally did, but he didnt include the ordering.
I'd be interested in reading that.


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  #27  
Old 11-13-2012, 04:56 PM
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Originally Posted by Freakenstein View Post
Phonebooks are listing names of people and places, not actual Finnish language itself.
Names of people and places are part of a language. So "Washington" as the name of several people and several places is an English word, just as "Helsinki" is a Finnish word and 東京 (Tōkyō) is a Japanese word. Just because you can't use proper nouns in Scrabble does not mean that they are not part of the language.
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Old 11-14-2012, 12:46 PM
Freakenstein Freakenstein is offline
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Originally Posted by Giles View Post
Names of people and places are part of a language. So "Washington" as the name of several people and several places is an English word, just as "Helsinki" is a Finnish word and 東京 (Tōkyō) is a Japanese word. Just because you can't use proper nouns in Scrabble does not mean that they are not part of the language.
I see You're from Australia and You speak English there.
Are you saying Wollongong, Wagga Wagga, Namatjira, Plibersek and Toka Likiliki* are English words?

( Bo is Swedish and can be translated in several different ways. In Finnish it doesn't even resemble anything. )

* However in Finnish there are slang words 'toka' ( the second one ) and 'liki' ( near or close ). So what are We to think about this?
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Old 11-14-2012, 01:53 PM
John W. Kennedy John W. Kennedy is offline
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Anyway, what about the Eagle Shirt Company or the Red Cross? Are they not English?
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Old 11-14-2012, 02:26 PM
Giles Giles is offline
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Originally Posted by Freakenstein View Post
I see You're from Australia and You speak English there.
Are you saying Wollongong, Wagga Wagga, Namatjira, Plibersek and Toka Likiliki* are English words?
Yes. It's very common for English words to be derived from other languages, like these. One way to recognise that they are are English words is to see what happens to them in other languages. In the first example that you give (Wollongong), we are not even sure what the original Aboriginal word was, but if you look at the Wikipedia (which links to articles in other languages) you can see that "Wollongong" translates to "Уулонгонг" in Bulgarian, "울런공" in Korean and "ウロンゴン" in Japanese. So "Wollongong" is not a Japanese word, but ウロンゴン is one.

Similarly, if the Australian Minister for Health is asked for her surname in English, she'll tell you that it's "Plibersek". The fact that it's the same in Slovenian doesn't stop it being an English word.
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Old 11-14-2012, 04:03 PM
Freakenstein Freakenstein is offline
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So You are saying that Wollongong is a Finnish word too?
Fine, since I am writing this with alphabet used in Finland, I guess that this is written in Finnish then.
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