Since 1999, Google has been acknowledging holidays and special events with Google Doodle, which is a variation on the Google logo in honor of these days. Holidays can range from Christmas to Arbor Day as well as birthdays of political activists. Today, however, Google Doodle is acknowledging a rather obscure holiday: “The Letter N”. However, there is a reason for this phenomenon and, through the study of “Spanish Language Day”, we can see it’s true importance and celebrate a letter we take for granted.
While the holiday was commemorated quite recently by the United Nations in 2010, the importance of it dates back to the 12th century before the letter N was even heard of. Before the advent of the printing press, Spanish scribes invented shorthand methods of writing or combining letters to make copying texts easier and more efficient. To omit letters from a word, the virguilla or tilde symbol was used. However, by the late 12th century, it was agreed that double letters in a given word could be written as one letter with a tilde above it to improve efficiency. Thus, words such as “anno” become “ano” with a tilde symbol.
While languages began to shift away from the idea of using tilde symbols, Spanish decided to retain the unique letter N to indicate the nasal sound in certain words such like “pequeno” and “nombre”. It was not until 1803 that the Royal Spanish Academy Dictionary was formalized as simply the letter N. Today, this letter is used in more than 17,000 Spanish words as well as over 20,000 words in languages such as English and Filipino. While Spanish Language Day was commemorated on October 12, the United Nation had chosen April 23 to honor the holiday in memory of Spanish writer Miguel de Cervantes who was the oldest person to utilize the N in his stories.
Today, Google Doodle has proudly acknowledged this history and diversity by “Celebrating the letter N”. The doodle itself portrays a wide letter N surrounded by geometric shapes with the colors of Spanish flags. Google has even shared alternate drafts on their website. With so much flair and passion, today was certainly brought to you by the letter N!