Our fascinating alphabet

Lots of things fascinate me about the way we communicate with the written word. I’ve recently stumbled across a few alphabet-related facts that might interest you too.

Browsing in a local bookshop, I was delighted to find the Diccionario del origen de las palabras (‘Dictionary of the origin of words’)*. I’ve been looking for an English equivalent for some time, but without success.

Anyway, under abecedario, I found out that our Latin ‘alphabet’ takes its name from the first two letters of the Greek alphabet: alpha and beta. In contrast, abecedario refers to abcd (a, be, ce, de), the first four letters of the Latin system.

So, abecedario is the actual name for the collection of Latin letters that we use. Here in Spain, it is often used interchangeably with alfabeto when referring to the alphabet. (I can’t find a different English translation of abecedario – is there one? Or did it get lost on the way to the UK?)

I then spotted a post on the origins of abc on the superb I Love Typography blog. This excellent article starts at the very beginning of the use of the written word (well, systems), taking us on a journey through their evolution and arriving at the alphabet as we know it today.

Both well worth a read, if you can (the book’s only available in Spanish).

* Diccionario del origen de las palabras; Buitrago A, Agustín Torijano J; 978-84-670-2521-7; Editorial Espasa Calpe; Ed. 2008

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