When Did We Stop Using ‘O’?

For centuries, O was used in English literature to deliver longing, rapture, and melancholy in the package of a single letter. It appears in the writings of William Blake, T.S. Eliot, and even in the King James Bible. But today you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone using the word outside a Shakespeare festival. So what caused the death of literature’s favorite exclamation?

According to Douglas Kneale, a scholar of Romantic poetry and administrator at the University of Windsor, William Wordsworth and poets like him may have set O’s decline into motion. The romantic poet was known for trying to “democratize” language and move it away from the lofty, stylized verse that was standard in poetry at the time. “He tried to find a language really spoken by men,” Kneale told The Paris Review. O, which was used to invoke people, things, or ideas that weren’t present, was exactly the type of language Wordsworth was trying to avoid.

Read more: Mental Floss

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