Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Why always sometimes Y?

English majors unite!  I am starting a petition to change the rules regarding the letter Y.  Who’s with me? 

Have you ever wondered why the vowels are A, E, I, O, U, and sometimes Y?  Why not just make Y a vowel?  Why all the gender confusion surrounding a letter that clearly functions as a vowel? 

Now you may think that when Y is at the beginning of a word as in yes or yellow, it says the yuh sound so therefore it only sometimes functions as a vowel in words like baby or fancy or names like Bryn, Dylan, or Gwenyth. 

When one looks at how the other vowels function it becomes apparent that vowels are identified with several different sounds.  Teachers say that young children struggle with spelling because of vowels.  Vowels are the hardest sounds to hear.  I’m thinking even if a kid does hear the vowel sound they know they’re playing Vowel Roulette when choosing which one to use.  They’re closing their eyes and throwing a dart at the vowel board praying to peg the right one.  Can you imagine the sweat on a child’s brow from a parent holding a privilege over their head based on the outcome of a spelling test?  Talk about pressure. 

A may be for apple but it is also for also.  The A in also could be mistaken for an O as in octopus could it not?  And what about the U in putt versus push.  How do you know to use a U in push when it sounds like the double O in book?  And then O and U do something entirely different when paired together as in out. 

I’m sure you’ve heard the joke that these letters together are pronounced as fish:  ghitio.  Think about it.  Enough, pin, competition.  Then we have some obscure rule that says “when two vowels go a walking . . .”  Who does the talking?  I don’t even know because honestly it depends on which language the word originally comes from! 

The English language is difficult to master since so many words come from other languages.  Anyone proficient in English knows that there are exceptions to every rule.  Perhaps that’s where the sometimes Y thing comes in.  We can’t have a hard and fast rule about vowels without mucking it up with an exception. 

But I say let’s just start teaching students that Y is a vowel.  Who’s to say that a yuh sound versus replacing any other legitimate vowel sound makes Y a consonant?  G has two sounds – a soft G sound as in giraffe and a hard G sound as in goober.  Yet the G is still recognized as a consonant regardless of which sound is used.  Same with the letter C.  Still a consonant whether it’s spelling ceiling or cat clawing the ceiling. 

So if no other letters change their consonant or vowel status then why should Y?

Why Y? 

If you feel that Y is being unfairly treated as a transvestite letter please leave me a comment so I can add your name to the petition.  If you oppose my arguments tell me.  I am open to differing opinions backed up with logic.  If you simply think I have too much time on my hands and that changing the rules will never happen, well then you haven’t read “Frindle” by Andrew Clements.  Read the book and then we’ll talk.  Together we can make a difference for the letter Y. 

5 thoughts:

mintifresh said...

"Transvestite letter" BAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Love it!

The Piquant Storyteller said...

Thanks Mindi! I thought you might like that.

Dawn said...

Sign me up! What about W?

Sandra said...

I think your mind works in a weird yet fantastic way. I'm all for Y being made a vowel. Add me to the petition!

The Piquant Storyteller said...

And that's two more names on the petition! Sandra and Dawn you're all signed up. Thanks for the comments.