Z is for Zed and Zee

April 30, 2014 at 10:15 am | Posted in Culture, Society, Ways of Living | 9 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

A2Z-BADGE-000 [2014]


The Zed


I’ve always thought it strange that the U.S.A. has a different pronunciation for a simple letter of the alphabet than her mother country Britain, and the rest of the English-speaking world

What we pronounce as ‘zed’, the Americans pronounce as ‘zee’. The reason for the difference can be found at “Today I Found Out”. Zee has always sounded weird to my ears, though I am becoming used to hearing it around me more often. Many people here in Australia watch American shows on TV and go to American movies at the cinema. To an ever growing extent, the younger ones are taking up the American pronunciation.RoyRogers &DaleEvans 1950s

Of course, Americanisation of Australian culture didn’t just begin with the current generation. When I was young, I loved to watch and read about the American West. Our own west was seen as unexciting.


That's me on the left.

That’s me on the left.


I wanted a cowboy set for Christmas one year. Not a girl’s set, but a boy’s; boys had more fun then. I got one! My sister received a cowgirl set – she wasn’t a tomboy like me.

gun& holster set


Television and movies have done a great deal for the infiltration of American ideas, words, and ways of doing things. One of the reasons it was so successful in Australia up until about the 1990s is what we called the “Cultural Cringe”. Australians were ashamed of their culture, thinking it could never measure up to the British or the American.

Cultural cringe

Thankfully, we now realise that we have a lot to offer the world. Indeed, our scientists and medical researchers are world class and often in demand. So are our actors, our inventors and our pop stars.

However, all that is too late to halt the insidious incursion of the American idiom into our everyday speech. Along with other words, ‘lift’ is becoming ‘elevator’; ‘footpath’ is becoming ‘sidewalk’; ‘bonnet’ and ‘boot’ (of a car) are becoming ‘hood’ and ‘trunk’.

Don’t ask for ‘chips’ in MacDonald’s, they only have ‘fries’. And when you ask the youngsters there for a ‘biscuit’, they say, “We don’t have biscuits, I’m afraid; only cookies.”




Even our emergency call number 000 is under threat. Many TV watchers dial the American 911, believing it to be our emergency number too. Telephone providers have had to adapt their systems to allow for a 911 call to go to our own  emergency lines.

Call 000

All this shows how one culture can affect another so much in a relatively subtle way. Cultural exchange can be a very positive force for renewal and the creation a vital nation. But that works best when it is slow and steady, as it had been until relatively recently, and when countries already share many aspects of culture and they are given time to adapt.

Cross culture exchange

When high numbers of people are forced to flee to other countries in fear of their lives, the receiving countries can become fearful that their own culture will be undermined. This is especially true when the race, religion and culture of the asylum seekers are very different to those of their hosts.

However, I am not dealing with that violent aspect here. All I want to do is to show how a culture can gradually change through such simple things as words and their pronunciation.


z_zed_not_zee_napkins from zazzle


We are all seeing change in the culture of our various countries. Are you happy with gradual change, bur have a fear of rapid change?


(c) Linda Visman  30.04.14  (555 words)




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  1. I love your Zee/Zed illo! I’m vaguely aware of zed, but I appreciate the reminder.

  2. ‘Zed’ it is, and for me, ‘Zed’ it will remain! 🙂 Intersting post, Linda 🙂

  3. Oops, I mean ‘interesting’. 🙂

  4. You’ve educated me today. I never knew there was a difference in the pronunciation of “z”.Of course, if I’d get out of my own head and into the world more often I might have known that!

    • Glad to broaden your education suzicate :-). Thank you for the reciprocal visit too :-). All the best.

  5. Well researched and written. I too wonder what the pull to all things American is about when we have so much to celebrate and proud of in our own country.

  6. You are so right, Linda!

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