Kuit using the letter Q; it’s a useless letter that can easily be replaced by C or K in every case — and to prove it: I won’t use it in this article, except when I refer to it by name or use IPA.
C more closely resembles Q than K does, but the letter C is almost as useless as Q is, which is why I’ve chosen K as Q’s replacement — but I’ll let it slide, if you want to use C… at least until my next article on English orthography.
A Long History
Warning: this section partially uses Wikipedia as a source, since I couldn’t find anything that wasn’t locked behind a paywall other than a lackluster Britannica article.
The letter Q originated from the Semitic letter 𐤒 Koph, which represented the phoneme /q/, present in Arabic, but not English. It’s like /k/, but instead of placing the back of your tongue against your velar rift, you place it further back, against your uvula.
Koph made its way into Greek as Ϙ Koppa, but Greek didn’t have a /q/ sound, so they instead used it to represent /kʷ/ and /kʷʰ/ (which both sound like the “ku” in “kuit”); phonetic evolution would eventually render the latter as /f/, and Koppa would become Φ Phi.
But before Koppa could become Phi: it had transferred into Etruscan, where it adopted it’s contemporary form: Q. The Etruscans also had a /kʷ/ sound, but instead of using it stand-alone, they tacked a V on the end.
The Romans would later adopt Q from the Etruscans, using it alongside V to represent /kw/ (which sounds like /kʷ/, but isn’t the same thing). The V eventually became a U, English adopted the Latin Alphabet, and here we are, with a letter we don’t need.
A Useless Letter
There is no reason Q should be a letter; English doesn’t have either of the sounds it used to represent, so it serves no other purpose than to make writing unnecessarily complicated.
But can we repurpose it, like the Greeks did? No; there’s no sound similar enough that doesn’t already have its own letter. The cold, hard truth is that Q is completely useless and should be kicked out of the English alphabet.
But English would look weird without it!
English looks weirder with Q than without it. When someone learns English: they probably think it’s pretty weird that we have two letters for the exact, same sound — especially since one of them looks like the letter O and is only used in very specific circumstances.
Regardless, alphabets are about phonemes, not pretty pictures, and what you think looks great might look terrible to someone else.
But we’ve always used Q!
Blind traditionalism is the reason English spelling got as bad as it is; people refused to accept change, and now the only way to spell a word properly is to memorize it — which defeats the whole point of having an alphabet in the first place.
But changing everything would be too expensive!
Just because changing all the things that have already been published with Qs in them would be too costly doesn’t mean you should publish new things with Qs in them.
Q is a useless letter, because English doesn’t have the sounds it’s supposed to represent, and we don’t have another sound to repurpose it for. Keeping it for aesthetic, traditional, or monetary purposes just doesn’t make sense.
There are a few exceptions I need to note. Obviously, we should still use Q when naming it, and website URLs will still need the letter to function properly.
This article was written exclusively about the English language, so my argument obviously doesn’t apply to foreign languages. Albanian, for example, uses Q to represent /c/ (which sounds like how you pronounce Q).
Q has a long history across multiple languages and thousands of years, but it’s finally time to lay it to rest. It’s completely useless for us English speakers, since we don’t have either of the sounds it used to represent, and neither do we have a sound it can be repurposed for.
Keeping it for aesthetics, tradition, or monetary reasons doesn’t make sense, because alphabets are about phonemes, not pretty pictures, blind traditionalism has made English Orthography the worse in the world, and we don’t have to change the past to change the future.
Although Q should be kicked out of the English alphabet, we should still keep it on our keyboards so we can name it or type in website URLs. Furthermore, it still has a place in languages like Albanian.
Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. “Q”. Encyclopedia Britannica, 16 Dec. 2019, https://web.archive.org/web/20210610210815/https://www.britannica.com/topic/Q-letter. Accessed 10 Jun. 2021.
Omniglot Editors. “Albanian”. Omniglot, https://web.archive.org/web/20210610210712/https://omniglot.com/writing/albanian.htm. Accessed 10 Jun. 2021.
Omniglot Editors. “Arabic”. Omniglot, https://web.archive.org/web/20210610211746/https://omniglot.com/writing/arabic.htm. Accessed 10 Jun. 2021.
Wikipedia Contributors. “Q”. Wikipedia, 2 Jun. 2021, https://web.archive.org/web/20210610210634/https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Q. Accessed 10 Jun. 2021.