Y, O Y, O Y
Is ‘Y’ a vowel or a consonant?
As Phil has remarked on Tumblr, this comes down to the internal politics of the alphabet.
The Ys themselves are internally divided on this point.
There are reactionary Ys who want to be vowels because they aspire to the special status.
There are liberal Ys who champion the allegedly superior values of the vowels and say that Ys should try to be more vowel-like for that reason.
There’s even an idea – very widespread and much pushed by elite Ys – that “we’re all vowels now” and that consonants have disappeared. The old opposition between vowels and consonants has been superseded, and to even talk about consonants is to peddle divisive ‘lexical war’ rhetoric.
However, the vast majority of letters are still consonants, and there are some Ys who recognise this, proudly declare their consonant status, and call for unity between all consonants against the tyranny of the vowels.
However (again), there is also a strain of resentment against Ys amongst consonants, even radical Ys who want to identify with consonants. They say Ys have a privileged status, what with being ‘semi-vowels’ and all, and that they thus enjoy the benefits of partial-vowel identity. They say that the Ys who claim to be consonants are ‘just tourists’, etc. This is curiously…um… consonant with remarks often made by vowels about radical Ys being ‘champagne consonants’.
Of course, radical consonantist Ys will often dispute with Rs and Ms and Bs and so on about how they have much more in common with consonants than with vowels… but the Rs and Ms and Bs will often write this off as ‘vowelsplaining’.
And then there’s the ongoing and bitter row about participation in Countdown, what with its apartheid policy.