Origin and history of the most particular letter in Spanish, the Ñ

In Spain we have a letter that is not used in other languages: the letter Ñ. Its origin is very curious and very characteristic of Spaniards. This strange letter did not exist in Latin. Therefore, we decided to create it to cover a need to present a new sound. In the past, three different ways were used to give sound to the "Ñ" that did not exist at that time. For example, "Hispania" was used. "ni", "nn" or "gn" were used to try to cover this need.

However, different variations of the same sound gave rise to confusion. Then a scribe decided to use the group "nn" and, for short, he used only one "n" and added that funny little stick on top.

The EC versus the letter Ñ

Nowadays, many of the Spanish words contain the letter "Ñ". In addition, there are many surnames characteristic of Spanish that also contain it: "Núñez, Muñoz, Ibáñez, Ordoñez, Arguiñano or Larrañaga", many of them Basque, where the Ñ is also widely used.

However, in the 1990s, there was a time when the EEC suggested that computer manufacturers remove it from the keyboard. Many came out to defend it by the sword. The Spanish Royal Academy assured that "the disappearance of the 'ñ' would be a serious attack against the Spanish language".

But they were not the only ones to complain. The winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, Gabriel García Marquez, said that it was completely scandalous that the EC proposed to Spain the elimination of the "eñe" solely for commercial reasons. In addition, he also assured that it was a display of arrogance, since the Ñ represents a cultural leap from a Romance language and must be understood as an evolution. It expresses one sound in one letter, while other languages still use two.

Spanish speakers living in other countries have to make do as they can to write their language. They don't have 'ñ' keyboards and it can get very uncomfortable. Also, it is enough to know the difference between "año" (year) and "ano" (ass).

Therefore, if you are learning Spanish, one of the first things you will have to learn is how to use the Ñ correctly.

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