Red Letter Day: Danish Alphologists Discover the 27th Letter of the Alphabet
DENMARK: Alphologists at the University of Billund, Denmark have announced the discovery of the 27th letter of the English Alphabet. The letter, which has yet to be named, was uncovered during library renovations over the Easter Break. Professor Olaf Proil who identified the letter said the discovery was a complete surprise:
“Alphologists think there are plenty of letters waiting to be discovered, but that most of these lie out in the far reaches of the alphabet, far beyond the punctuation marks and the symbols you get on cellphones. What is so surprising is that this letter is near the middle of the alphabet, between Q and R. It is an extremely small letter, which may explain why no-one had noticed it before. We think it may have been hidden behind the tail, or pesce which comes out of the Q.”
The site of the proposed missing letter.
© Olaf Proil, Pål Foilor, University of Billund
The find is set to be controversial when it is presented at the International Alphological Union next month. One professor has already dismissed the new letter.
“We get this kind of headline every few years and each time it’s proven to be nonsense. It’s almost certainly a variant of another letter, just like there are two variants of writing a lower-case A. This was settled a couple of years ago when the IAU elected to designate such things as dwarf letters.”
History will prove me right
Proil nevertheless claims there is historical proof this is indeed a missing letter.
“There’s clear evidence that this letter dates back to the Dark Ages. A close examination of A History of England by the Venerable Bede shows there are elements missing from the page. Previously historians have argued these were spaces, or possibly that he’d forgotten to dip his quill in the ink. Documented Viking raids on Lindisfarne, the monastery where the Vulnerable Bede wrote his history, could well have taken the letter back to Denmark as booty along with the gold and jewels.”
Proil speculates that the letter could be even older:
“We have references to Celtic texts in Roman histories, but so far all Celtic material seems to use the Roman Alphabet which was imposed on them when the emperor Maximus invaded their territory. It is possible some Celtic letters were smuggled to Britain during the Roman invasion and hidden from the conquerors. We need to carbon-date it, but we may have the first prehistoric letter.”
Dr. Pål Foilor who has assisted Prof. Proil in his work admits that there have been problems in announcing the letter to the public.
“My first reaction was email all my friends with the exciting news. That’s when I realised I couldn’t, because the letter wasn’t on my keyboard!”
Foilor has been working with Compaq to produce a downloadable version of the letter which users will be able to type by pressing Q and R similtaneously.
“Compaq are the obvious choice for any computing work requiring heavy-duty lexicography. They’ve been safely using a ‘q’ without a ‘u’ buffer on their products for years. The saving by using Compaq makes it 14% more eco-friendly than Compaqu. That’s the kind of expertise we need in reproducing the new letter.”
“While new letters might seem like fun, we shouldn’t forget there’s a cost too. The number 7 on cellphones already hosts P,Q, R and S. Adding a new letter between Q and R could overload the key and mean we lose the use of 7, which is the world’s luckiest number.”
Family groups have also urged caution, noting that the new letter might be used to promote drugs, pornography and women’s rights. Bill Donohue, of the Catholic League, is said to be angry — though experienced Donahologists are as yet uncertain if this is about the letter.
Nonetheless Prof Proil says that he is looking forward to the unveiling of the letter at noon. “While the letter is tiny, the possibilities are huge, I think its small size could make it particularly useful when describing sub-atomic particles.”
The Discovery Channel will be covering the event live in their program “The Lost Letter”.
Other programs covering the letter in the following week will be a BBC Horizon Special and the History Channel’s “The Secret Letter of the Third Reich.”
[Compiled from a press release by the University of Billund and stories around the web]