In the English language, the letter ‘q’ is almost always followed by the letter ‘u’. Why is this? I have seen some half-arsed answers elsewhere on the Internet, but nothing too definitive.
According to what I’ve read (which may be no more accurate than your half-assed google answers), it started way back with the Phoenicians. They had two different k type sounds, only one of which exists in English. The Greeks borrowed their alphabet from the Phoenicians and thus also had two separate letters, and the Romans followed suit. The Romans had c and q, and added a v after the q to give a better indication of how the letter was supposed to be pronounced.
English and French both evolved from Latin. In old English, the Latin qv sound ended up as cw, and in French it ended up as qu. The Normans brought the French spelling to England, and it’s been that way ever since. Over time, spoken English has lost the difference in the two sounds, so now they both sound like k.
That’s better than anything I’ve read. Thanks!
According to Wikipedia, Andrew L. Sihler’s New comparative grammar of Greek and Latin claims that C,K, and Q were all used to represent more or less the same sounds in Latin, but in combination with different vowels. C and G came to be used in most of these usages, leaving a few K’s and a handful of Q’s, all of the latter being QU situations.