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Letter Imperfect
I published an exposé a while back that took a hard look at the first five letters of the Roman alphabet. Since then, there has been a tsunami of response calling for yet another of my behind-the-scenes, in-your-face, over-the-top, below-the-belt looks at the characters behind the characters.

Okay, maybe it wasn’t exactly a tsunami. A storm, perhaps. A spike in humidity at the very least. In any case, I’ve had some second thoughts about that first, rather shallow in-depth report. As I look back at it, I see that it dealt mostly in cheap shots and low blows — the worst kind of glyphic celebrity-baiting. I have decided, after considerable soul-searching, that I don’t want to be that kind of person.

But at this point in my life, unfortunately, it’s too late to change. So here goes. Last time, we tore the plain brown wrapper off of A, B, C, D, and E, daring to lay bare their soft, seamy underbellies. We didn’t find any seams, but you’ll have to admit that looking at all those underbellies was pretty titillating. So, mission accomplished! Now, let’s do the same for F, G, H, I, and J.

Why don’t we concede right off that this is not the most interesting section of the alphabet. This should tell you something: to remember what order these letters come in, you have to sing “The Alphabet Song” in your head. Oh, they represent sounds we use every day, and no letter is more important than any other, and they’re all critical to effective communication, blah, blah, blah. But no, I’m sorry, this group is definitely second-tier.

Take F. Please. I don’t want to sound like an elitist, but it’s tempting to say F has no class at all. It is the lowest grade, right? Failure, complete and utter. It can’t succeed, so it’s forced to be a felon. And what about the F-bomb? How do you feel when someone drops one in the middle of a polite social gathering? (And that’s just when the F is a “fuck.” What about when it’s a “fart?”) And no, but it does not help to call it an PH-bomb.

G is the Chris Christie of letters. It’s a blowhard, it’s a bully, and it will never be president of the alphabet. It will let you know how grand it is, how great and how good, but be careful. It will walk all over you if you give it half a chance. Just ask J. G has been stealing J’s lunch for years. In many cases, such as ginger, giant, gist, and gerrymander, the theft is obvious, but G can also be a sneak-thief. Think of the second Gs in suggest or gorgeous. They represent the J sound, and they ought to be Js, but G slipped in and took J’s rightful place. Worse, G’s own name is a rip-off of the J sound. “Gee” really ought to be spelled “jee.” It’s like some kind of bad goke.

And speaking of spelling, is there an uglier one than “aitch?” That’s not H’s fault, of course, but H has always been a tough-luck letter. It looks like an A that someone pried open and just left that way. Or a one-rung ladder — not much use to anyone. Or a half-assed hashtag, or a tic-tac without the toe, or the uprights for flea football. It’s hard not to feel sorry for H, but I guess it’s even harder to resist making silly comparisons about its appearance. Again, that’s not H’s fault — although you have to blame somebody.

It may seem obvious to say that I is self-absorbed, but the situation is much more complicated than that. I suffers from the rare and highly ironic affliction of narcissistic multiple personality disorder. It can be (at any given moment) a selfish 1, a vain /, an egotistical (and lazy) __, or a conceited — (that thinks, apparently, it can levitate like a yogi). I is so inwardly focused, in fact, it doesn’t even acknowledge that U exists.

And that brings us to poor J. Pushed around by G, subjected to multiple pronunciations in other languages, and cruelly trolled as “fishhook” or “kinkytail,” J has always been an object of abuse within the greater society of runes and graphemes. And also within this essay, tendril butt.

And there I’ve done it again. Character assassination, literally and figuratively. And in the process of sullying myself, I probably got a little on you, too. Sorry. A little club soda should get that off. If not, try some White Out.

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