Why Does Upper Case Cursive Q Look Like A 2?

Upper case, cursive Q. You know the one. Q is the cursive letter that has nothing to do with the printed letter.

English: I made it myself (Sotakeit)

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the time when cursive was part of the elementary school curriculum, the top five questions teachers had to answer were:

Recess was always right after the pizza and corn were served. Spelling counts if you don’t want people to think you’re a dimwit. Even da Vinci couldn’t work out a person flying under their own power.

But no teacher could answer why upper case Q looks like a 2.

Drawing Out Their Points

Back before there were computers, or even electricity, there were people. People who wanted to get their points across and pass on details. At first, drawings served the purpose of a written language. They were just right, as long as you didn’t want to say much more than “Marcel killed a moose with a spear”.

Drawings had another draw back. Some people just were not good artists. They had important ideas to communicate, but lacked the talent to depict them. We know that none of these people were my ancestors because art is in my blood. Since only certain people could use them, drawn languages faded out.

Q Was Digital, When Digital Wasn’t Cool

English: Russian Cursive Cyrillic alphabet. Ру...

Russian Cursive Cyrillic alphabet. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Society moved on. Eventually, it seemed that there would be some sort of symbol based system, but which?

Different cultures developed different symbols. Numbers were already an established force around the world. Pro number advocates pressed for a digit based system. They made inroads into the Cyrillic alphabet that we see used in the Russian language and in the Latin alphabet used in English, among other languages.

These pro-number advocates tried to usher in what they called a “digital age”. Their efforts failed. Numbers disappeared from written story telling and eventually, from all communication that didn’t involve mathematics.  Digital age was to take on a new meaning a few dozen centuries later.

The digital age of alphabetic communication is gone…but not completely. I’m sure you’ve seen the number 3 in Russian/Cyrillic writings. The digital age also explains the 2ueer substitution of a fancy 2 for upper case Q in the cursive Latin alphabet.

32 Comments on “Why Does Upper Case Cursive Q Look Like A 2?”

  1. “Art is in my blood.” Nailed it.

  2. Debbie says:

    Pizza and corn? Never understood that. Pizza and salad makes more sense. And recess AFTER lunch? Another puzzle. Recess makes more sense before lunch. As for the uppercase Q, the numeral 2 just looks awkward. Always has.

  3. I don’t believe I have ever used a Q like that. If I did see one I probably did think it was a 2. Maybe we Canadians do them different?

  4. I wish I had seen the cursive chart over the weekend. I totally fudged up signing my soon-to-be last name.

  5. pegoleg says:

    I’ve never done the upper case Q like that, either. Maybe I was busy pondering the whole pizza/corn topic when our teacher was teaching Q in second grade.

  6. List of X says:

    You know, Cyrillic alphabet also has a 4, and both alphabets have a zero. So the language has been digitized more than we think.

  7. Enjoyed your take on this. As an astro-numerologist, I play with letters and numbers all the time. And, yes, I was taught to write the capital Q that way, only with the tail swinging slightly below the line. Alas, on lineless paper, where does it go? So I gave up this symbol after a few years and reverted using the printed version of the Q instead. Life is all about choice, after all. Am I being serious or using humor? You decide!

  8. Azaliah says:

    Q b or not Q b? Is that even a 2uestion?

  9. kategladstone says:

    No, actually the infamous “2-shaped” Q arose from Baroque-era efforts to write the standard Q in one stroke — without picking up the pen. This required starting the Q’s oval at the bottom: the “six o’clock position” from which the Q’s tail would sprout. However, starting at this point was troublesome enough that people grew last, and wouldn’t actually go ALL the way down to “six o’clock” to start the letter. Instead, they started it only partway down (at “seven” or “eight o’clock” — eventually at “nine” or “ten o’clock”), leaving out more and more of the oval’s left side. Result: today’s conventional 2-shaped Q: which the U. S. Postal System, by the way, has tried to get handwriting publishers to change back to a REAL capital Q, because the 2-shaped one causes problems for the handwriting-recognizer robots that the Postal System now uses to sort mail.

    Kate Gladstone
    DIRECTOR, the World Handwriting Contest
    CEO, Handwriting Repair/Handwriting That Works

  10. fearmysax says:

    I can answer the pizza corn thing. Majority’s favorite food: pizza. Majority’s favorite vegetable: corn. That is all

    • omawarisan says:

      And I agree with those being the best dishes in any school cafeteria. But why pair them up? The result is one really good lunch and four adequate lunches. Breaking the pair up spreads their deliciousness over two days.

  11. Matt says:

    What I never understood is the “F” that looks more like a “7”. Like these “7oil baking cups” https://img0.etsystatic.com/052/1/10461581/il_340x270.710740462_9t0o.jpg What font is that and why do newspapers like using it all the time

  12. Anonymous says:

    Show capital q in cursive

  13. former teacher says:

    pizza and corn are filling foods, starches help with kids burning energy and the govt/food agencies don’t charge much for those items. School cafeteria ladies need to comment .

  14. […] There is a concern that cursive writing is going the way of video tapes, lawn darts, and honest politicians. Many feel that the ability to communicate in a cursive hand is about to become extinct. However, if the certain lawmakers in Louisiana have their way future generations will be wondering just as I did, why the letter Q in cursive looks so strange. […]

  15. I really enjoyed this article, and I am so glad I found it!
    Thank you for closing the case on the cursive 2 mystery.
    On another mysterious note:
    My children are certain that I am secretly a lunch lady because I often fix a dinner that is similar to what they serve for lunch at school (there have been times I was spot on item for item), the day of, before or the day after Yet, even I cannot solve the mystery of pizza with a side of corn.

  16. kategladstone says:

    Here’s how that 2-faced cursive Q _actually_ happened:

  17. kategladstone says:

    Here’s how that 2-faced cursive Q _actually_ happened: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h99cI2iY8Ls

So, what's on your mind?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s