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Up Close and Alphabetical
When I’m on the road with my live “Eaganblog Intergalactic” tour, I am always struck by the number of young people who approach me after a concert asking about the alphabet, especially the individual letters. “What is L really like?” they might ask, or “Is O a total zero?”

While I appreciate the enthusiasm these kids have for the language, I have to laugh at such questions. Do they really think that I have met letters of the alphabet and talked with them? Do they imagine we hang out together in Cabo or frequent the same exclusive Greek island? People can be so silly.

On the other hand, I do have a few friends in the larger community of pictograms, digraphs, and glyphs. The circles that actual letters run in are a bit too rarified for a humble blogger, or even for me. Still, I hear stories. I don’t like to repeat rumors, or to talk about anything of which I have no direct knowledge — but, of course, I do.

That said, here goes. I don’t really have the space to take on all twenty-six letters, so why don’t I just start with the first five? For those of you who can’t remember the lyrics to “The Alphabet Song,” these are A, B, C, D, and E.

First is A, because A wouldn’t have it any other way. A has always been jealous of its position at the head of the line, and it bristles at the slightest suggestion that it is not the best, the brightest, the most accomplished letter of the alphabet. This brittleness can make A seem cool and aloof at times (like most type-A personalities), and it does not make friends easily. Despite its standoffishness, however, most tend to cut it a break because it’s a vowel. The real jerks are mostly thought to be consonants.

Not B, though. It is a well-liked letter, and it presents a much different picture than A in other ways as well. While A is in tip-top physical shape, B looks like a D tied in the middle. I don’t know if there’s a word for that protruding shelf of blub below a too-tight belt (a “subgut?”), but B has a particularly big one. But we are not going to obsess over appearances here (next blog, I promise). No, we will simply say that B has a great personality and is considered by many to be the funniest letter (as we have noted here before). For instance, just say the word “boob.” Your lips automatically want to form a smile, don’t they?

I’m not sure, but I think that C’s image is fraught with ambiguity. To some, it looks like a failed attempt to make an O; to others, it’s a lovely crescent moon. Still others see a self-important parenthesis. All I can see is that barbed hook at the top (at least in this font); it’s an accident waiting to happen. When asked for a response to this controversy, C answered that it had “mixed feelings.”

Like B, D struggles a little with its weight. The difference is that D cuts a more portly figure — not so much fat as big. Furthermore, it doesn’t care; it is among the gentlest, most sweet-natured — and least neurotic — of letters. I should say, though, that it is also one of the least bright. Dupe, dope, dip, dimwit, dingbat, doofus, dummy, dolt, dork, dweeb — it’s no coincidence that they all begin with D. As does diss, which is why they are known as the ABCs, not the ABCDs. D, of course, is just too nice to make a fuss about it.

That brings us to E, perhaps the most misunderstood of all letters. Most people assume, I think, that E is popular among its peers. It is, after all, used more than any other letter in the formation of words. Some, however, have suggested that its willingness to hook up with any letter, any time, make it promiscuous. There is also wide resentment for the silent E, which many see as evidence that E has some terrible secret to hide. All this has led to a deep distrust for it within the alphabet itself. In truth, E is a sad, shy letter in spite of its fame, and it prefers to keep to itself outside of the workplace. My guess is that it actually prefers the shunning it receives.

Again, this is all just gossip. I have never actually met a letter (though I did see M in an airport once…what a slob!). It is quite possible that none of this loose talk is true, and that it represents nothing more than vicious rumor-mongering by some spiteful ligature or envious Cyrillic wannabe. I don’t know, and what’s more, you don’t care. The point is, I made a blog out of it — and that’s all that matters.

Please Note: Tim Eagan will read your comments but he is currently not publishing them.

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No "new normal" for me, this shit ain't normal.
~ MS, Truckee