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'C' or 'c' is:

Values and Representations of "C" and "c"

= C = C Programmer's Disease

C n.

1. The third letter of the English alphabet. 2. ASCII 1000011. 3. The name of a programming language designed by Dennis Ritchie during the early 1970s and immediately used to reimplement Unix; so called because many features derived from an earlier compiler named `B' in commemoration of its parent, BCPL. (BCPL was in turn descended from an earlier Algol-derived language, CPL.) Before Bjarne Stroustrup settled the question by designing C++, there was a humorous debate over whether C's successor should be named `D' or `P'. C became immensely popular outside Bell Labs after about 1980 and is now the dominant language in systems and microcomputer applications programming. See also languages of choice, indent style.

C is often described, with a mixture of fondness and disdain varying according to the speaker, as "a language that combines all the elegance and power of assembly language with all the readability and maintainability of assembly language".

--The Jargon File version 4.3.1, ed. ESR, autonoded by rescdsk.

This is the genealogy of the programming language C:

C is a child of B.
C was first known as C in year 1971.
Then it begat csh in year 1978.
Then it begat awk in year 1978.
It became C (K and R) in year 1978.
Then it begat C with Classes in year 1980.
Then it begat Concurrent C in year 1984.
Then it begat Objective-C in year 1983.
Then it begat Perl in year 1987.
It became ANSI C (C89) in year 1989.
Then it begat Python in year 1991.
It became ISO C (C90) in year 1990.
Then it begat PHP in year 1995.
It became ISO C (C95) in year 1996.
It became ISO C (C99) in year 1999, and has not changed much since that time.

This genealogy is brought to you by the Programming Languages Genealogy Project. Please send comments to thbz.

What makes C so special that it has become the number one all-purpose programming language on this planet? It's a number of factors, really.

  • One can easily memorise all of C's functionality. You won't see many productive C++ or Perl programmers without a copy of the ARM resp. the Camel Book. But once you know C, a reference is hardly necessary. You can keep it all in your head.
  • There are free and/or commercial C implementations for nearly all known platforms.
  • You can do everything in C, where nothing is really easy to do, but nothing is really hard. Compare that to BASIC where everything is easy, but you can't really do all that much.
  • C is all lower case. That rules.
  • C has got grillions of function libraries thoughtful men have written to enable you to live a lazier programmer's life.
  • C is very well-standardised.
  • C is not overly strict, but does a reasonable amount of type checking and such.
  • C can be used for immensely complex, super-high-level stuff because it provides very flexible data structures.
  • C can be used to program on the bare metal since it's got bit-wise operators, pointer arithmetics and other sick stuff.

Use C! It's good! But try other languages first.

The fastest something can move. In Conway's Life, c is the maximum theoretical speed at which cells can propagate out: 1 cell/tick. In Core Wars it is equal to one location per cycle. These definitions are related to the speed of light and the restraints which it places on movement.

C is the NYSE listed stock ticker symbol for Citigroup (also known as Citibank), a huge world-wide bank and financial institution, based out of NYC. This securities brokerage went public on 01/23/87. They are the parent company of Solomon Smith Barney, and the Travelers funds, among many others.

'c' is a mathematical binary infix operator. (n c r) is the number of sets with r elements which can be made with n atoms. (It can also be written C(n, r), or nCr, or even nCr.)

Both n and r must be nonnegative integers, and r must be less than or equal to n. For example, (4 c 2) is the number of sets with 2 elements which can be made from 4 atoms. Say the 4 atoms are w, x, y, and z. The possible sets are: {w, x}, {w, y}, {w, z}, {x, y}, {x, z}, and {y, z}; (4 c 2) is 6. (n c r) equals (n! / ((n - r)! * r!)), which equals ((n p r) / r!).

(n c r) equals the (r + 1)th number on the (n + 1)th line of Pascal's triangle, which has many interesting properties. For example, in Eindhoven notation, (+ : (iZ) ∧ (0 ≤ in) : n c i) = 2n.

Phssthpok says the 'c' stands for 'choose'… if you have n items available and choose r of them, the number of choices available is (n c r) and it reads as 'n choose r'.

N-wing tells me maybe the infix 'c' should be capitalized, (n C r). He also says it stands for 'combination', like p (or P) stands for 'permutation'.

One of the stranger letters of the English Alphabet. It spends its life as an orphan and a wanderer, finding work where it can.

C can be used to make the 'K' sound (voiceless velar stop), in words like 'cat', 'music' and 'account'. If it appears at the end of the word, or if it is at the beginning of the word and followed by an 'A', 'L', 'N', 'O' 'R', or 'U', it makes the 'K' sound. In names starting with Mc or Mac it also makes this sound. There are many more rules like this for various situations, such as when 'c' or 'cc' appear in the middle of a word, but if you are sufficiantly versed in English to read this node, you know them already.

C can be used to make the 'S' sound (voiceless alveolar fricative), in words like 'city' and 'accelerate'. If it appears at the beginning of a word followed by an 'E' (except in 'Celtic'), 'I', and 'Y' (except in Welsh-related words, 'cymric', 'cymrite') it makes the 'S' sound.

C can be used in the consonant cluster 'Ch' (voiceless palato-alveolar affricated stop). This is the one use in which C can't be replaced. No 'C', no 'Ch'. Words like 'chill' and 'French' depend on it. (Beware 'school'; the 'H' is a non-letter in this word, having the 'C' make a 'K' sound). A few 'Cz' words also make this sound, such as 'Czechoslovakian'.

C is used next to 'K' to indicate that it follows a short vowel (beck, duck). Usually if 'K' is the last consonant sound in a word, it will either be proceeded by 'C' (to indicate a short vowel) or followed by 'E' (to indicate a long vowel). ('back', 'bake'; 'lick', 'like'; 'block', 'bloke').

I should add a link to I before E, except after C, when making the long 'A' or 'E' sound. Details and exceptions can be found at that node.

'C' can be used in for the 'Sh' sound (voiced palato-alveolar fricative, or sometimes voiceless palato-alveolar fricative). This is primarily in words of French origin ('chef', 'chandelier', 'Chicago', 'Michigan', and 'cache'). Likewise, when the 'sh' sound appears in the middle of a word, C can be used followed with 'io' (e.g. 'coercion', 'suspicion', 'atrocious').

And finally, when appearing between a 'S' and an 'E' or an 'I', the 'C' is almost always silent (e.g. 'scene', 'scent'; 'science', 'scimitar'). In those rare cases where it appears at the beginning of a word followed directly by a 'T' (e.g. 'ctene', 'ctenoid', 'ctetology'), a 'N' (e.g. 'cnemis', 'cnidaria', 'cnidoblast'), and in most 'Cz' words ('czar', and related words), the C is silent.

If you have any suggestions for other rules, examples, or etc., let me know.

C Through Space and Time

The letter C is one strange duck. Historically, its precursor first popped up in the Phoenician alphabet, where it was used to represent the sound 'G'. This was then ported over to Greek, becoming the third letter in the Greek alphabet: alpha α, beta β, gamma γ, delta δ.

So far, so good... but then the Romans messed up. Initially, they used gamma for both the 'G' and 'K' sounds, but this was too confusing so they decided to split it up. Henceforth the letter C would always be read 'K', and a C with a little hook added to it -- today known as G -- would be read 'G'. Simple enough, although people ignorant of the finer points of Latin orthography still insist on ordering their Caesar salads as see-zer salads, instead of the original keh-sar. O tempora, o mores!

Then came the Dark Ages, and Latin was fragmented into dozens of dialects. In many, a phenomenon called palatalization took place before soft vowels, shifting the 'K' sound roughly like this:

  1. 'K'
  2. 'KY'
  3. 'CH' (present-day Romanian, Italian)
  4. 'TS' (German)
  5. 'S' (French, Portuguese)
  6. 'TH' (Castilian Spanish)
Different orthographies were then developed to deal with the mess. The French came up with the curlicue known as the cedilla Ç to flag soft C's in some vowel combinations. Italian decided to default to the soft 'CH', so c'è is pronounced "che", but harden it if followed by a hard vowel or the letter H, so che is pronounced "ke". English, typically, imported its vocabulary left and right without doing anything about the orthography, and was left with the unholy mess poked at in tem42's writeup.

Fortunately, most languages using Latin letters but without the historical baggage of Romance roots decided that this was ridiculous, and either standardized the letter to mean one sound only, or dropped it entirely. Unfortunately, standards are wonderful since there are so many to choose from, so here's a partial list of possible English readings and the languages they are used in, with a few additional notes on what various squigglies added to the letter do.

  1. 'CH'
  2. 'J'
  3. 'K'
  4. 'S'
    • Cyrillic alphabet (Russian, Bulgarian etc)
      • This is not the letter C at all, but the Cyrillic glyph С, which developed from Greek sigma Σ, not gamma. But your average Cold War-era Westerner will still read "СССР" as "see-see-see-pee", so for the record, it's "es-es-es-ar".
  5. 'SH'
  6. 'TH'
  7. 'TS'

    ...and two sounds completely absent from English:

  8. dental click

  9. voiceless pharyngeal fricative
    • Somali
      • This sound is written ' (open quote) in most flavors of romanized Arabic and Hebrew, and the even stranger Ħ in Maltese. The easiest approximation in English is to just leave it out entirely!
Many orthographies based on English or Spanish, such as Swahili, Quechua and even Hepburn Japanese, use the letter C only in the combination CH, which is read as an English 'CH' sound. There are also a large number of languages where the letter C is used for loanwords only (eg. Finnish, Tagalog, Icelandic), which means that C can (theoretically) use any of the readings above.


Gritchka the cunning linguist

Guitar chords: C major
 X  O

Notes:   1  : C
         3  : E
         5  : G

C. (see)


C is the third letter of the English alphabet. It is from the Latin letter C, which in old Latin represented the sounds of k, and g (in go); its original value being the latter. In Anglo-Saxon words, or Old English before the Norman Conquest, it always has the sound of k. The Latin C was the same letter as the Greek GAMMA, Γ, and came from the Greek alphabet. The Greek got it from the Phoenicians. The English name of C is from the Latin name ce, and was derived, probably, through the French. Etymologically C is related to g, h, k, q, s (and other sibilant sounds). Examples of these relations are in L. acutus, E. acute, ague; E. acrid, eagar; L. cornu, E. horn; E. cat, kitten; E. coy, quiet; L. circare, OF. cerchier, E. search.

See Guide to Pronunciation, §§ 221-228.

2. Mus.

(a) The keynote of the normal or "natural" scale, which has neither flats nor sharps in its signature; also, the third note of the relative minor scale of the same (b) C after the clef is the mark of common time, in which each measure is a semibreve (four fourths or crotchets); for alla breve time it is written (c) The "C clef," a modification of the letter C, placed on any line of the staff, abows that line to be middle C.


As a numeral, C stands for Latin centum or 100, CC for 200, etc.

C spring, a spring in the form of the letter C.


© Webster 1913.

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