Home Columns Anantha Narayan Zed letter day

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For 300 weeks, I’ve been serving you a curious potion laced with a hint of trivia, a slice of etymology and a dash of name history. You’ve been a willing partaker of my experiments with truth, no matter how tasteless the servings. Here’s my parting shot dedicated to all you lovely people who’ve been part of my journey.
Befittingly, it’s about the last, lonely letter that probably gets as much respect as the twelfth man in a club cricket team. To clear the air, ‘Zed’ wasn’t always the vestigial tail of the English alphabet. Till the nineteenth century, the ampersand (&) took that slot. But after the dawn of the modern age, the crown of thorns has been worn by Z.
Z owes its origins and its zigzag form to the Greek zeta. Dropped from the alphabet in 300 BC for being ‘archaic’, the letter is staging a comeback of sorts with the advent of start-ups like ‘Zovi’, ‘Zo Rooms’, ‘Zopper’, and ‘Zivame’.
The cool thing with Z is it’s often associated with energy. If you don’t believe me, recall all the z-words you know: zippy means ‘full of vigour’; zing is about liveliness; zest is enthusiasm; zeal is ‘driven by energy’; zany is ‘over the top’; and ‘zindagi’ is life itself.
Another factor that works to its advantage is Z sticks out in serpentine lists. There may be 196 countries, but Zambia and Zimbabwe are likely to figure in everyone’s Top 30 in terms of recall. If you ask a kid to rattle out animal names, chances are ‘zebra’ might make the cut pretty fast. Provoke a movie lover into naming European actresses, Hungarian ‘Zsa Zsa Gabor’ might pop up from nowhere. For similar reasons, Zakir Hussain, Zubin Mehta, Zico Coimbra, Zeenat Aman and Zig Ziglar can never be forgotten while drawing up A-to-Z compilations.
Numerology has always treated Z with respect. Health, stamina, will power, achievement, diligence, courage, faith and charisma are traits associated with the letter. But do take it with a pinch of salt as the Double Z cues sleep in popular culture. And the mathematical symbol of nothingness is ‘zero’.
Still, even if you’re a zombie, with all the Zaras and the Zappos, and the Zippos and the Zomatos, you can’t help but admit, that Z has the last laugh today.


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