C, K, G, J, Q, X: which would you call the most pointless letter?

When I was a young Rhymer, only an apprentice in the ways of evil, I used to love reading the encyclopedia. It was the pre-Wikipedia era, of course, meaning I am talking about print volumes (the World Book in my parents’ house and the Encyclopedia Americana in my own homes). Both of these featured articles on the letters of the alphabet, detailing their evolution in Hebrew, Greek, Roman, and ultimately English lettering. One thing that struck me about these articles was a claim that the letter K is redundant in English, as it duplicates the sound of the letter C. Having studied the history of the language more extensively since then, I understand what the author was saying, but nonetheless the argument always struck me as bass-ackwards; representing atleast five distinct consonant sounds as it does, the letter C is always ambiguous. Likewise, the claim one sometimes hears that the letter J is unnecessary because the sounds it represents can also be spelled G & Y also seems silly.

Which brings me to the point of this thread. Of the six letters C, K, G, J, Q, and X, which one would you say is the most pointless?

No pole. I realize this is a natural subject for one, but it’s just too hard with 20/200 vision. But please pick only one of the six and explain your answer. Whoever comes up with the most passionate, cogent, and/or ridiculous argument in favor of her or his thesis will recieve a blueberry cobbler assuming I can separate the explosive from the non-explosive recipes.

Well, they all have points, but Q has only one, so that’s the most pointless.

Most pointless? The E in “pole”. :slight_smile:

(Did you see what I did there? x2)

I’d have to agree. Offhand I can’t think of a word where the C couldn’t be replaced with s or k and still be pronounced accurately.

Ö – Well, not one of the six you’re asking about, but I don’t like it. Those dots on its top are pure evil. It’s no surprise that heavy metal bands use it.

Seriously, only X and Q are actually redundant. We could use C only for the CH sound, and G only for the hard-G sound and then get rid of the rules about when C and G become soft. However, since I have a Q in my name, I don’t want to get rid of it and X just rocks. So I’m going to stick with my first answer: Ö.

  1. C & K are the same letter. The C came into the English alphabet from the Latin alphabet, where it looked like this:


The K is from the Norse Runic alphabet, which included a rune similar to the Latin <, but then as the Germanic people migrated North, (I’m talking roughly the time when a different group of people where invading Britain and becoming the Anglo-Saxons, 450 CE-ish) the K started being written to look more like this (which was actually flipped upside down from a previous version of the runic Futhark.

When the Vikings invaded Britain and re-merged with the Anglo-Saxons to become the English, they eventually adopted the Latin alphabet as the standard, keeping the < but also bringing in the runic ᚴ.
2. Many of the loan words in English that start with “sk” came into the language from Norse. Skeleton, Skull, Skis, Sky. You can see the sort of things that interest Norsemen.

Anyway, I like the Vikings, so the < & the ᚴ can both stay.
3. You know how you complained that C is actually a bunch of different letters? J is like that.
4. J, I, G, Y - with Y & I being both the vowel and consonants. The G is from the Norman French (Norsemen got around.) version of the alphabet - the “modern version” of which was influenced at Charlesmagne’s court (around 800ish CE). That’s where we get the upper & lower case letters, btw, in the Carolingian alphabets. Without this hard working letters, we could not get jiggy. They’re in.
5. Q. Q is annoying, but it fills a vacancy. Without Q, we’d be stuck with Kw, and W is a other chapter.
6. X. X is the most useless letter. We can easily approximate its sounds with a variety of C or J tones. Also, X is a number, and no one ever knows if you should pronounce it “X” or “Ten” necessitating tiresome explanations.

I vote X off the island!

Q/u can be replaced by K/w in every instance I can think of whereas the other letters require two or more replacement rules.

Isn’t “C” necessary to complete the “ch” sound in words? In that instance it couldn’t be replaced with “K” or “S”, right?

Q is queer, but unique.

I say 86 the K.

Except words like “quoits” where just a “k” will do.

K, G and J are incredibly useful. I have no idea why they are on this list. How would you spell “gunk”, “jungle”. (Try getting a Russian to pronounce “Jazz”.)

C is useful in combo contexts like “ch”, already mentioned.

Q is borderline, with or without the “w” add on.

X can clearly be gotten rid of for its common usage. It could be used for the “ch” sound in “loch” and such instead.

J is the most recent addition, so it can be gotten rid of most easily.

Kweer and unike work better for me than Qing & Queen

You’re still just replacing Q for K and none of this “Wait, is a C in this context a S or a K or a CH sound?”

Q is a ten point letter, but we have to have a U to play the Q … more often than not the ten points come off our score at the end of the game …

Explosive cobbler please …

At the cost of making the letter G even more ambiguous and, even worse, pleasing the ghost of Robert Heinlein.

Kwit Q.

For consonants, we’ve got 21 letters to work with. I count 25 consonants in English if you include the voiceless velar fricative. 24 without, and for American English we can get away without. The two affricates, two dental fricatives, and the velar nasal can and are all be represented with letter pairs. So that leaves us 21 letters for 19 remaining consonants, meaning we could cut two letters without any others having to pull double duty.

I think X and Q might be the easiest, swapping them out for KS or SH and KW or KY, respectively. Or some other single or pair as appropriate.

But this discussion of K…are there any instances where swapping out K for C would lead to confusion? I can’t thinc of any but I’m also not very good with letters and spelling.

You don’t always need a U to play your Q in Scrabble. There are a few words with Q but no U.


…and maybe a few more.

:smack: Obviously typically not the case for /d͡ʒ/

Q. Q can always be swapped for ‘k’ without loss of clarity.

C, as some people have pointed out, has a unique sound as part of ‘ch’ compounds, but I’d still vote it off the language if we all acreed to replace ‘ch’ with ‘x’, and ‘x’ with ‘z’ where appropriate. (‘x’ because it’s already the IPA for the voiceless velar fricative, which is one of the things ‘ch’ can represent in English. The other is the voiceless postalveolar affricative, which can derive from a voiceless velar stop, which was represented in ancient Greek by the letter chi, which looks awfully like an X. So it’s completely intuitive!) Then we could keep Q for deqorative purposes.

Good thing I already know IPA, as otherwise this would have the blind OP lost. :slight_smile:

Did you use the arc connecting the D with the Ezh symbol, as in older IPA transcriptions? The iPhone won’t tell me.

Anyway, you are not being bombastic enough to earn yourself any cobbler. Also, digraphs are my enemy and always have been.