Q is the 17th letter of the English alphabet. It holds 19th place in the Phoenician and Hebrew alphabets. It is normally followed by 'u' and indeed was sometimes represented thus in classroom alphabet charts. It may still be – I just haven't seen it so for many years.
When it is not followed by 'u' it is commonly in transliteration from Arabic words like Qatar. Usually the pronunciation is 'kw' though there are exceptions, like quay, queue, quiche, picturesque, grotesque.
As a mediaeval Latin numeral Q represents 500.
During the First World War (1914 – 1918) Q ship was the name given to warships that had been disguised as tramp steamers. These ships were used to lure U-boats to destruction. Submarines had a limited supply of torpedoes and would only deploy them against warships. If a submarine detected a merchant vessel it would surface in order to fire shells at it. The objective was to destroy vessels carrying vital supplies. Once the submarine had surfaced the Q ship would uncover its hidden guns and fire.
HMS Tamarisk was a British First World War Q-ship, built on the Clyde.
This painting is of an event that occurred on 8 August 1917 in the Bay of Biscay. HMS Dunraven did not manage to sink the submarine she had lured but was significantly damaged herself and sank early on 10 August as the British destroyer HMS Christopher had begun to tow her towards Plymouth. Two of the crew members - Lieutenant Charles Bonner and Petty Officer Ernest Pitcher - were awarded Victoria Crosses in recognition of the efforts of the Dunraven's crew.
Both images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Q was the nom-de-plume of Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch who was an author, a professor of English Literature at Cambridge and the editor of the first 'Oxford Book of English Verse' in 1900. Q was also the codename given to the character in the James Bond films who provides 007 with a seemingly unending supply of Quirky accoutrements.
There are a number of words beginning with Q that I find strangely attractive. For example, the Quagga (Equus quagga) is now extinct. It was native to South Africa and was a Quaint zebra-like animal with yellow-brown stripes on its head, neck and forebody. I like Quintessential and Quizzical, Quietus, Query, Quadrille and Querulous and of course, we should not overlook Don Quixote tilting at windmills from whose name comes the adjective Quixotic!
Thank you to Denise Nesbitt and the members of her cheerful team who organise and host this weekly meme. To see more Qs please click here.