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The letters b and v have several possible names in Spanish. Is there an official, language academy-sponsored name for these letters? If not, what are the most common and standard names?

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4 Answers

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The Diccionario Panhispánico de Dudas from the RAE claims that:

  • The letter b is called la be and may also be called be alta or be larga in the Americas.

  • The letter v is called la uve and may also be called ve, ve baja, ve corta, or ve chica. The recommended name is uve to clearly distinguish the letter from b.

As a side note, the RAE also claims that:

la pronunciación correcta de la letra v en español es idéntica a la de la b

Which means:

the correct pronunciation of the letter v in Spanish is identical to that of b

Therefore, the labiodental pronunciation of ve (i.e. how v is pronounced in English) is not a valid name for v in Spanish.

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Do you have a link or page number for that reference? –  jrdioko Nov 21 '11 at 0:38
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The addresses are buscon.rae.es/dpdI/SrvltGUIBusDPD?origen=RAE&lema=b and buscon.rae.es/dpdI/SrvltGUIBusDPD?origen=RAE&lema=v. The phrases The letter b and The letter v on my answer are links to these pages. The main page of the Diccionario Panhispánico de Dudas is buscon.rae.es/dpdI. –  Jaime Soto Nov 21 '11 at 3:09
    
Tee hee: pronounce BBVA and BBUBA out loud using uve. Good on the RAE for clearing up the ambiguity! –  Michael Wolf Jan 21 '12 at 2:38
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Even though this won't answer fully your question, I've found this on Wikipedia:

The letters ⟨b⟩ and ⟨v⟩ were originally simply known as be and ve. However, there is no longer any distinction between the sounds of these letters—their accepted names are be and uve;[5][6] in some regions, speakers may instead add something to the names to distinguish them. Some Mexicans and most Peruvians generally say be grande / ve chica ('big B' / 'little V'); Argentines and Chileans, be larga / ve corta ('long B' / 'short V'). Some people give examples of words spelt with the letter; e.g., be de burro / ve de vaca ('b of burro' / 'v of vaca'). Regardless of these regional differences, all Spanish-speaking people recognize be as the official name of B.

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Also in Spain is "be de Barcelona, ve de Valencia" –  vartec Nov 18 '11 at 12:09
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In the list of changes made by RAE in 2010 (see the link below) in the section 2 "Propuesta de un solo nombre para cada una de las letras del abecedario" they propose to use a single name for each of the letters. Their recommendation is the following:

  • b, B: be
  • v, V: uve

Their commentary:

La recomendación de utilizar un solo nombre para cada letra no implica, en modo alguno, que se consideren incorrectas las variantes denominativas con vigencia en el uso que presentan algunas de ellas, y que a continuación se comentan:

  • La letra v tiene dos nombres: uve y ve. El nombre uve es el único empleado en España, pero también es conocido y usado en buena parte de América, donde, no obstante, está más extendido el nombre ve. Los hispanohablantes que utilizan el nombre ve suelen acompañarlo de los adjetivos corta, chica, chiquita, pequeña o baja, para poder distinguir en la lengua oral el nombre de esta letra del de la letra b (be), que se pronuncia exactamente igual. El hecho de que el nombre uve se distinga sin necesidad de añadidos del nombre de la letra b justifica su elección como la denominación recomendada para la v en todo el ámbito hispánico.

  • La letra b se denomina simplemente be entre aquellos hispanohablantes que utilizan el nombre uve para la letra v. En cambio, quienes llaman ve (corta, chica, chiquita, pequeña o baja) a la v utilizan habitualmente para la b las denominaciones complejas "be larga", "be grande" o "be alta", añadiendo en cada caso el adjetivo opuesto al que emplean para referirse a la v.

-- Principales novedades de la última edición de la Ortografía de la lengua española 2010

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In the Rio Grande Valley as well as Mexico, many people have trouble making the distinction in pronouncion so, we say: B de Burro Y V de Vaca, thus effecting the clarification between a donkey and a cow.

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In Mexico years ago I learned to say "ve" for "b" and "eve" for "v". –  hippietrail Nov 17 '11 at 8:51
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