Answer Man is confident that no one believes the story that was as soon as banpassed away about: That Pierre L’Enfant, the designer of our fair city, so despised John Jay, Amerihave the right to politician, diplomat and also Supreme Court justice, that he slighted the guy by omitting a J Street in Washington.

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Or was it Thomas Jefferkid who detested Jay and for this reason banished J from our maps? Stories differ. The important suggest is, those stories are wrong.

There’s an orthographic factor why our roadways jump from I to K, skipping J: Long ago, the letter J didn’t exist. And even as soon as it began to exist in the English alphabet, it so very closely resembled I that having actually an I Street and a J Street would have invited confusion.


A web page from the Trevelyon Miscellany, a book developed by London craftsguy Thomas Trevelyon in 1608. The book has this J-much less alphabet, mirroring that J was not thought about a separate letter from I ago then. (Courtesy of Folger Shakespeare Library)

It might be hard for modern-day minds to accept, yet iust — excusage me, simply — look at an object from the Folger Shakespeare Library’s collection. It’s dubbed the Trevelyon “Miscellany,” and also it’s a book of assorted ephemera, consisting of a page illustrating the English alphabet as it existed in 1608, once the book was developed by Thomas Trevelyon. Tbelow is no J. (There is no U, either, something Answer Man will certainly go back to in a moment.)

Tright here is no J because it was thought about a variant of I, said Suzanne Kemmer, a grammars professor at Rice College who has actually stupassed away the history of creating. The English alphabet is acquired from the Romale alphabet, and those Latin-speaking toga-wearers didn’t use certain sounds — and also hence didn’t require specific letters — that later on languages offered.

For more proof that J was a problematic creature, we deserve to rotate to a book at the Library of Congress. It’s called “The acts of the Assembly, now in Force, in the Colony of Virginia” and was publimelted in Williamsburg in 1769. It was owned by the abovementioned Thomas Jefferchild, that was well-versed in Latin. At the bottom of one web page, an I stands alone. It is a “signature,” provided in early printing to represent the sequence of a book.

To display who owned the volume, Jefferchild simply scribbled a T prior to the I, creating his initials: T.I.

Thomas Iefferson.

It most likely wasn’t L’Enfant that named the District’s streets, anymethod. Jefferboy, James Madison and also the city’s commissioners of public structures all functioned together to decide the names, shelp architectural chronicler Don Alexander Hawkins.

In 1792, the initially map of Washington was publimelted. It had roads going from A to W. There were no X, Y or Z highways, bereason tright here was no require for them. The City of Washington was only the inner core of the 10-by-10-mile square carved out of Maryland also and also Virginia. W was the last street.


But tbelow was a U Street, although there isn’t a U in the Trevelyon “Miscellany.” Remember that the miscellany was developed almost 200 years prior to the production of Washington. Just as the letter J arised from the letter I, so the letters U and W emerged from the letter V.

“I and J didn’t use to be identified in English spelling units, then they were,” Suzanne shelp. The exact same point had actually currently occurred via U, V and also W, she explained.

But let us move from the linguistic ago to the historical. Not everyone has appreciated the alphabetical simplicity of Washington’s main street names. Some civilization assumed it was boring. Historian Michael Harrison has invested years rebrowsing Washington’s street names, which had major overhauls between 1904 and also 1908 to carry uniformity to the mechanism.

Michael uncovered that in 1872 the Board of Public Works recommended transforming the names to honor famous Americans. Thus F Street NW would certainly come to be Franklin Street, G Street would come to be Gallatin.

In 1889, The Washington Blog post published a letter from a reader determined as “C.H.R.” who had come up via a arrangement that offered the names of U.S. cities and even echoed Amerideserve to geography. Streets in Northeast D.C. would be named after cities in the Northeast: Albany, Boston, Concord, etc. The streets in Northwest Washington would begin Akron, Buffalo, Chicback. In Southeast: Atlanta, Beaufort, Charleston. And in Southwest: Austin, Birmingham, Chattanooga.

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In 1910, a Blog post letter-writer argued utilizing the names of Indian tribes: “Arapaho, Bonack, Catawba.”

“The civilization who are a lot of vocal around it don’t think prosaic letters execute justice to the greatness of the country,” Michael shelp. “They discover it childish or immature to have actually it that means. We should do somepoint much better, they say. And they suggest somepoint much better — or somepoint they think is better.”

As you know, none was embraced. Answer Man likes to think the District’s seemingly simplistic street names honor something that may seem prosaic but is in fact important to civilization: the alphabet itself.