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Y, N, Z!

17 November 2006 — An amusing incident involving the English alphabet and the author's two-year-old daughter — 1-minute read

My daughter, who is almost 3, has been learning the alphabet. Today, when my wife asked her what comes after Y, she answered, “N!”

She insisted it was so, because the song goes ”...W, X, Y N Z.”

Reader Comments


I didn’t get it.. what song is that ? (and how do you phonetically spell those letters in english..?).

@Norwegian: It’s a simple song used to help children remember the English alphabet. When you get to the end the word “and” is inserted before the Z to help it fit the meter better: “W, X, Y and Z”. But a tendency for sloppy pronunciation among us Americans usually causes the word “and” to be pronounced the same way the letter N is. This particular mispronunciation is so widespread that it’s even transcribed into some brand names, such as “Kibbles ‘n Bits” (dog food).

Norwegian, the song is the Alphabet song. It ends, traditionally, with “W, X, Y and Z”, but “and”, when followed by a word that begins with a consonant, is generally pronounced “an”, which sounds like the name of the letter N (“en”). Thus, my two-year-old assuming that N follows Y. :)

Careful there, Jacob, it’s not really a mispronunciation. :) It’s simply how the word is pronounced in speech. Every language does this, morphing consonants and vowels depending on what follows them. The ‘n’ sound in Korean, for instance, becomes an ‘l’ if it is preceded by an ‘l’.

No one would actually say “and zee”, unless they were trying to emphasize something.

Ugh. I just reread that last comment of mine. I’m not that pedantic, really. Apologies for coming across that way.

I thought that when I was a kid too!

Heh, for Canadians it’s “and zed”. (Lots of things don’t make sense when you think that way: I initially was puzzled about why the heck there would be a web 2.0 company called zedvents for example :-)

Off-topic (not sure how to email you, so posting here): I really like your mephisto theme. However, it has a bug which seems to come with the standard Mephisto theme: the sidebar location is hosed in IE (it begins after all the content).

(I just converted a blog from Typo to Mephisto and I discovered it when testing in IE, and I wondered if yours had the same bug.)

I’m not sure if you care, but I just thought I’d mention it out of courtesy…

Hey Jamis, I’m a pedant! The term for dropping parts of a word to make pronunciation flow is ‘elision’. It’s not mispronunciation, it’s pragmatism :). Languages have two tensions: 1. To facilitate ease of speech, and 2. To facilitate understanding.

It’s easy to see why Ruby is a good language by being better than java at 1 and better than perl at 2 :)

A friend of mine thought “L M N O” was one letter, pronounced “elemeno.”

:) see your daughter is already applying logic to solve real world problem.

I too have a 2 1/2 year daughter, who outsmarts me and my wife with her logic and wits.

My daughter is 2 1/2, and we’ve purposely sung the song ‘Y … Z,’ leaving out the ‘and.’ But we let her get away with her Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star verse of “Up a bup ba wusso hi.” A kid’s gotta be a kid.

hi I am an english teacher in Iran,SHIRAZ I am looking for some English alphabet songs for my students.They are 7 years old.I need som songs for each alphabet letter.can you help me