Twenty-eight years ago, I was an inspector of schools with the Education Bureau (then Education Dept). One day, after observing a lesson, I chatted with the teacher, who complained that many of her students didn’t even know ‘the 24 letters’ of the English alphabet. I smiled, faking understanding and agreement.
This morning, I learnt that indeed there was a time in history when there were only 24 letters in the English alphabet – it was only after the early 16th century when ‘i’ came to be distinguished from ‘j’, and ‘u’ from ‘v’ (The Fight for English by David Crystal, p. 32). Interesting!
(And a reminder for teachers: Don’t say ‘my students don’t even know all the alphabets.’ There is only one alphabet in English, and it contains 26 letters.)