I’ve came to the conclusion that while the English language contains 26 Useful Letters, certain letters receive disproportional attention. Generally they are the ones at the beginning of the alphabet. When I was in school, teachers used children’s last names, in alphabetical order, to assign tasks. These included going up to the blackboard to do a tricky bit of arithmetic, or running an important errand. Often the teacher started at the beginning of the alphabet with each new day. My last name came near the end of the alphabet, which was a mixed blessing. Sometimes the bell rang before it was my turn to go to the board. But sometimes it meant I never got picked to do delivery jobs that got me out of class.
The dictionary plays up the fact that some letters are more special than others. My copy of Webster’s has lovely incised tabs, and it allots one whole tab to each of the first three letters – A, B and C. Only one other letter receives the same attention – the extremely useful letter S. All the other letters must share a tab with at least one other letter until it gets near the end of the alphabet. W to Z are all lumped together like an afterthought.
I take exception to that, as I am very fond of the letter W. It has been anchoring my last name since the day I said “I Do.” W shouldn’t be thrown in with X, Y and Z, letters that are clearly more limited in practical use. If you doubt the value of a W, think what the lovely phrase “Worthy Words” would be like without a W. “Orthy Ords” just doesn’t sound right.
May God forgive me, but the letters of the alphabet frighten me terribly. They are sly, shameless demons – and dangerous! You open the inkwell, release them; they run off – and how will you ever get control of them again!
– Nikos Kazantzakis –
Categories: Writing Letters