There are some systems that shouldn’t be tampered with – the IRS, a good relationship, or sleeping babies and puppies come to mind. But, for the sake of civilization, I have to tamper with the foundation of our communication. Yes, the alphabet. My problem with letters can be traced back to childhood where I had to continually sub -vocalize those powerful 26 letters in the order I learned them whenever I had to alphabetize something. I carried this habit into adolescence and even…into high school. There I was, 15 years old, working a summer job in the guidance office where filing was the order of the day. Needless to say, I gave those 26 little beasts a real lashing; ABCDEFG…. I’m sure at least one of my college recommendations contained the parenthetical evaluation, “should do well once she learns the alphabet.” In my weaker moments I worried about my condition – my dirty little secret if you will. Declaring an alphabetical truce I moved on with my life of disordered letters until my, then, nine year-old niece (Tiffany) picked out her favorite letters from her handwriting tablet – there were six of them; E, A, N, T, D, O. I asked her why she liked these letters more than the others. She said, “cause they talk more.” Two things became crystal-clear that day – one was, I never had a dirty little secret (at least that wasn’t one of them). And the other epiphany was that the entire alphabet should be rearranged because some letters are clearly misplaced. For example, E should be first. It appears to be the most used letter so why send others and me with my condition on a sub-vocal roller coaster ride? If we put E first then D, A, N, T, O should follow though not necessarily in that order just as long as they are on the good side of M – I have to admit M is right where it should be – beautifully balancing linotype order and a writer’s desire. Now I have a problem J and k. Seriously, these two must be extremely well connected to have gotten this far up the letter ladder. J and K don’t work well in pairs, at least not like T and H or E and T. I really love T and hope to find out just what letter god was so offended by T’s personality that it would be put after Q! The letter Q should be stripped of its free-speech rights because it is obviously part of the one percent, living as it does, vicariously off the good graces of C and K. (There will be no room for posers in my alphabet). I haven’t overlooked L which is in it’s right place at the helm of M. The letter L provides an orthodox antecedent M N O P. This well-established Letter is the locus of every child’s verbal trip through the arguable 26 – just listen the next time the pre-schooler in your life recites the alphabet, “…ellen em opee…” This is pronounced with a fair amount of gusto as the recitee knows s/he is more than half way home. And then comes X – a clear case of a well balanced, good looking letter so, like Q, an obvious concubine of, in this case the letter Z who truly does all the work. I don’t trust the letter Y. Why? Really, how can I trust a letter that clearly can’t make up its mind if it wants to be a vowel or a consonant – that “sometimes Y” expression is really a hedging of bets here. I want Y to take a stand – even if it has to stand alone like the letter I. (There’s a lot of courage in I). And finally, there’s Z. My friend the Zippo lighter with the image problem (in an age of gold-plated devices). Z has been the mule for the bad law firm of X,T & S far too long. This deceit must stop. I’m thinking a good self-help seminar would help with Z’s poor self-image.
So, there you have it, the culmination of thousands of letters and more trips through the upper and lower 13 than I care to count. Do I still sub-vocalize the alphabet when called upon to alpha-order names and such? In this age of high-tech programs and processors that can do the bidding of human beings – don’t even ask.