…one man's contribution to the Weeeeerly Wild World
So I’m reading another section of the Children’s Encyclopedia, published in the 1930s and there’s a puzzle section. Some guy has a safe made with three dials and on each of the dials are some letters, and know the drill; you have to turn each of the dials to the correct letter for it to open. The guy tells two of his trusted servants (hell, he has valuables enough to warrant owning such a safe; he can afford servants), what the combination is, and to aid their memory he tells them the three letters form a word. The question is, what is the word?
The picture wasn’t so clear to me but I guessed the word must contain a vowel, and the only vowel I could see was an O, and after a bit of careful scruitinsing I decide the word must be “OWN”, so I turn to the Solutions page…
Apparently the O isn’t an O (it must be a Q) and therefore “the only vowel present is a Y”
“Y is a vowel!? WTF!… did it used to be a vowel and it got demoted sometime since the 1930s… like how Pluto got demoted from being a planet?”
I thought AEIO and U were the only vowels and I kept running through them in my head to check from my school days learning… “A E I O U….A E I O U…” definitely no Y is included in my recollection.
I finished my cup of tea and wandered to my computer and consulted Ixquick (it’s like Google but less catchy). It turns out Y has been a vowel all along, but it’s also a consonant; it can be either. I never knew this!
The logic is this, as Wikipedia explains clearly:
a vowel is a sound pronounced with an open vocal tract, so that the tongue does not touch the lips, teeth, or roof of the mouth
Therefore, when you run through the letters of the alphabet and say them out loud (I didn’t go all the way through, but I’m pretty sure this is right) you will notice if you think about what your tongue, lips and teeth do, that the vowels, including Y, are clearly formed differently.