Why is it "Zed" in Britain, and "Zee" in America?

iStock
iStock

So zed is British and zee is American, yes? Well, that might be the case today, but once upon a time things were quite different. Historically, both zed and zee were used pretty much interchangeably in both British and American English, alongside a whole host of other more outlandish names for the last (or rather, second last) letter of the alphabet, like izzard, uzzard, zad, shard and, our personal favorite, ezod.

Of the two we’re talking about here, however, zed is by far the oldest, and takes its name via French and Latin from that of its Greek equivalent, zeta. Zed first appeared in print in the early 1400s, in a Middle English document that fairly straightforwardly described it as “þe laste lettre of þe a b c”—which is considerably nicer than what William Shakespeare had to say about it. Zee, on the other hand, first appeared in print in a British language textbook—Thomas Lye’s New Spelling-book—in 1677. The name zee itself is thought to have originated as nothing more than a dialect variation of zed, probably influenced by the regular bee, cee, dee, ee pattern of much of the rest of the alphabet. But precisely how or why it became the predominant form in American English is unclear.

One widely-held theory is that because zed, as the older of the two, was the most widespread variation amongst British English speakers, during the Revolutionary War American English speakers looking to distance themselves from anything even vaguely British simply adopted the zee version as their own to make a stand—no matter how small it might seem—against British control. Alternatively, there mightn’t have been any political reasoning behind it at all, and the name might simply have come to the forefront as American English was forced to adapt and simplify as more and more colonists—coming from ever more distant countries, and speaking an ever more varied array of languages—began arriving in the New World.

Whatever the motivation might have been, by the mid-nineteenth century zee had become the standard form of the letter Z in the United States, and has remained so ever since. Though the campaign to resurrect ezod begins here...

This piece originally appeared on Paul Anthony Jones' Haggard Hawks blog.

Amazon's Under-the-Radar Coupon Page Features Deals on Home Goods, Electronics, and Groceries

Stock Catalog, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
Stock Catalog, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

Now that Prime Day is over, and with Black Friday and Cyber Monday still a few weeks away, online deals may seem harder to come by. And while it can be a hassle to scour the internet for promo codes, buy-one-get-one deals, and flash sales, Amazon actually has an extensive coupon page you might not know about that features deals to look through every day.

As pointed out by People, the coupon page breaks deals down by categories, like electronics, home & kitchen, and groceries (the coupons even work with SNAP benefits). Since most of the deals revolve around the essentials, it's easy to stock up on items like Cottonelle toilet paper, Tide Pods, Cascade dishwasher detergent, and a 50 pack of surgical masks whenever you're running low.

But the low prices don't just stop at necessities. If you’re looking for the best deal on headphones, all you have to do is go to the electronics coupon page and it will bring up a deal on these COWIN E7 PRO noise-canceling headphones, which are now $80, thanks to a $10 coupon you could have missed.

Alternatively, if you are looking for deals on specific brands, you can search for their coupons from the page. So if you've had your eye on the Homall S-Racer gaming chair, you’ll find there's currently a coupon that saves you 5 percent, thanks to a simple search.

To discover all the deals you have been missing out on, head over to the Amazon Coupons page.

Sign Up Today: Get exclusive deals, product news, reviews, and more with the Mental Floss Smart Shopping newsletter!

The Reason Supreme Court Justices Wear Black Robes

Judge Thomas Patrick Thornton (left) is sworn in as a federal judge by Judge Arthur F. Lederle (right) on February 15, 1949.
Judge Thomas Patrick Thornton (left) is sworn in as a federal judge by Judge Arthur F. Lederle (right) on February 15, 1949.

Professional attire can go a long way in communicating the level of respect you have for your occupation and the people around you. Lawyers don’t show up for court in shorts and politicians don’t often address crowds in sleeveless T-shirts.

So it stands to reason that the highest court in the country should have a dress code that reflects the gravity of their business, which is why most judges, including judges on the Supreme Court, are almost always bedecked in black robes. Why black?

As Reader's Digest reports, judges donning black robes is a tradition that goes back to judicial proceedings in European countries for centuries prior to the initial sitting of the U.S. Supreme Court in 1790. Despite that, there’s no record of whether the Justices went for a black ensemble. That wasn’t officially recorded until 1792—but the robes weren’t a totally solid color. From 1792 to 1800, the robes were black with red and white accents on the sleeves and in the front.

It is likely that Chief Justice John Marshall, who joined as the fourth chief justice of the Supreme Court in 1801, led the shift to a black robe—most likely because a robe without distinctive markings reinforces the idea that justice is blind. The all-black tradition soon spread to other federal judges.

But according to former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, there is no written or official policy about the robes, and the Justices are free to source them however they like—typically from the same companies who outfit college graduates and choir singers. It’s certainly possible to break with tradition and arrive on the bench without one, as Justice Hugo Black did in 1969; Chief Justice William Rehnquist once added gold stripes to one of his sleeves. But for the most part, judges opt for basic black—a message that they’re ready to serve the law.

[h/t Reader’s Digest]