From A to Z;Primary

1st May 1998 at 01:00
Sue Palmer's weekly guide to the alphabet Q is a quaint and quirky sort of letter. It came to us via Latin and the Romance languages. Words predating the Norman invasion, such as queen and quick, were originally spelled with a cw (cwene and cwic), but Frenchified in the 16th century to make them look posher.

In Latin q opens many questioning words - quo, quis, quae - which is perhaps why q has such quizzical associations. Latin also provided a wide numerical lexicon from quattuor (four) and quinque (five). In such Latinate words we pronounce qu like the Old English cw (two phonemes), while in words imported more recently from French (such as antique and quiche) we pronounce it as k (one phoneme).

The queue (a pretty roundabout spelling for a word that sounds like its own initial letter) creates spelling problems for some children. They benefit from knowing its original, highly evocative French meaning (an animal's tail), and from rhythmic recitation of the letters: "Q-UE-UE".

This is what spelling lessons should be about - savouring the sounds and stories of English, and thus making the spelling memorable.

Rules can help too, and one of the most consistent dinned into infant heads by generations of teachers is that You Never Write a Q Without a U. Pupils trying to prove you wrong may find exceptions such as coq au vin and Qatar, but these are clearly exotic borrowings. You are on trickier ground, however, with a word becoming more widespread every day, as computers introduce more and more children to the qwerty keyboard.

Subscribe to get access to the content on this page.

If you are already a Tes/ Tes Scotland subscriber please log in with your username or email address to get full access to our back issues, CPD library and membership plus page.

Not a subscriber? Find out more about our subscription offers.
Subscribe now
Existing subscriber?
Enter subscription number

Comments

The guide by your side – ensuring you are always up to date with the latest in education.

Get Tes magazine online and delivered to your door. Stay up to date with the latest research, teacher innovation and insight, plus classroom tips and techniques with a Tes magazine subscription.
With a Tes magazine subscription you get exclusive access to our CPD library. Including our New Teachers’ special for NQTS, Ed Tech, How to Get a Job, Trip Planner, Ed Biz Special and all Tes back issues.

Subscribe now