A Shout-out to the Alphabet

I thought it was time to thank one of the most unappreciated and often ignored tools in the writer's belt- heck- in everyones' belt. We use it, abuse it, profit from it, create ideas with it, visions, stories, worlds... We hurt others with it, help, excite, entice, flirt, flaunt, fight, elaborate, extoll... (okay, you get the picture) I'm not talking about the thesaurus or the dictionary. I'm getting down to basics. 

It's time to thank the alphabet. You know, good ol' abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz.

Have you ever stopped to consider just how many amazing things happen when you combine those 26 letters? (and obviously if English is not your language, then you need to thank your particular alphabet, be it criyllic or hieroglyphic.) 

Writers and artists have always been fascinated by other writers and artists' tools. "What kind of pen do you use? What paper is that? Which program do you write in?" But how many times do you stop and say, "wow, I love the alphabet! It's so versatile, so expressive, so je ne sais quoi!" 

Since I love typewriters, fonts and all things alphanumeric, I have often wondered about the loss of creativity now that we have computers. Maybe a stuck key caused some scribe to create an entirely "h-less" tome. There is an obscure book by James Thurber that I own (my mother gave it to me when I was a child) called "The Wonderful O." When the letter "o" is purged from the land many things change. My favorite was poor Ophelia Oliver who became "Phelia Liver."

Missing letters notwithstanding, I plead my case that the alphabet is taken for granted. Aside from enabling us to communicate and to keep people from walking into traffic or taking the wrong train, the alphabet performs many thankless tasks like keeping things in order. Numbers may also be lacking in gratitude from their users, but they just seem cold and distant to me, so I mostly ignore them. Except at tax time, and then I curse them often.

So you may find this to be nonsense, but I hope you will take a moment to thank this wonderful invention, and you can give a bow to punctuation, too.*

*I personally will thank my lucky asterisk that I get to play with these great characters for a living.

However, I do want to point out that I'm not always happy about all of the so-called "rules" of the alphabet. I am not sure who made them. Did the alphabet itself? My sweet brother suffers from dyslexia and I occasionally have what seems like "bouts" of it when my brain mixes things up. Sometimes I also like to make up my own "recipes with the alphabet" and create new words. I find this to be fun. I even wrote a poem about it that I will share:

"Dis Lexia"

The alphabet out of order
Letters that don't belong
Long to be together
Out of place
Yet never better.
Dyslexic juxtapositions
Rebellious glee
E before I
Not I before E.
And sometimes why not
Put a Y anywhere?
Missing a consonant?
No one will care.
Spelling can be magical
Meanings obscured
When your brain misfires
Inventing new words.

With love and gratitude for the "abc-ness" of all things.


  1. Your poem twirls and cartwheels through my imagination.
    Thanks for sharing it.

    Cheerily, O

  2. I also had The Wonderful O as a child - a wonderful book!
    Another good use of the alphabet was CDB by William Steig. All of the sentences were made of letters and sometimes numbers - a writing technique now most often seen on custom license plates.


I welcome your comments, but please play nice! If my feelings get hurt I may have to ask you to take a time out and comments will go away. Think constructive if you must criticize.