If you’re reading this, chances are you know the alphabet. You’ve heard and seen it a million times since childhood, and it’s now ingrained into your brain so deeply that you don’t even have to think about it consciously as you read these sentences. So if someone told you that there’s a letter that you wouldn’t be able to identify correctly, you’d be skeptical.
But yes, there is one extremely common letter of the alphabet that most people can’t write on the spot or identify correctly. See for yourself in this video from John Hopkins University – can you identify this “elusive” letter?
Yep, it’s that tricky lowercase letter “G.” This letter looks quite different in print than it does in handwriting. In fact, there are two types of lowercase “G”s. The most common printed version is called the “looptail,” while the most common handwritten one is called the opentail.
The looptail “G,” which is the one in the video, is included in many printed fonts (though not all) found in books, advertisements, emails and magazines. You’ve basically seen it all day every day for years.
And yet! It’s strangely hard to remember exactly what it looks like.
In 2018, researchers at John Hopkins University published a study that shows that most people are unaware of the looptail and cannot pick it out of a lineup.
“Most people don’t even know two types exist,” they wrote in a press release. “And if they do, they can’t write the one we usually see.”
Cognitive scientist Michael McCloskey, the senior author of the study, says this may be because people only remember the letters that they learn to write themselves.
“We think that if we look at something enough, especially if we have to pay attention to its shape as we do during reading, then we would know what it looks like, but our results suggest that’s not always the case,” he said. “Looptail g is something we’re never taught to write, so we may not learn its shape as well.”
But now you won’t forget, right?