The YMCA is now officially just “the Y.” But is Y a vowel or consonant?

The YMCA has announced its first branding change in 43 years. The organization will now be known officially as the Y.

This may seem a no-brainer to Americans who have casually referred to the Young Men’s Christian Association by its familiar abbreviation for generations. In fact, the Y has been the nickname of choice for the nonprofit for about a hundred years. Now, will the YMHA follow?

(By the way, the word nickname has nothing to do with a chap named Nick. The word originates with ekename, meaning “an additional name.”)

Y is the twenty-fifth and penultimate letter of the English alphabet. The late-developing letter is a semivowel, which is a speech sound of vowel quality used as a consonant. The letter represents a vowel in most languages that employ it.

The shape of the letter is distinguishable and represented in many objects. The Y gun is an anti-submarine gun with two firing arms. A Y junction occurs where a road forks into two branches. And of course, the Y-front, a proprietary term for underwear, sports distinct Y-shaped frontal seaming. It is unclear how humans with a Y-chromosome feel about these undergarments.

After the announcement of the name-change, the buzz quickly shifted to the Village People’s 1979 sing-along hit: “Y.M.C.A.” Would the song retain all four letters? To the delight of prom and bar mitzah attendees everywhere, the band assured fans that the song will stay the same.