Monday, May 18, 2015

An Ode to the Letter A



It has come to my attention of late, that we, as writers, don't give enough credit to one of the most undervalued letters in the English alphabet: the letter A.

Let's face it, we misuse, abuse and overuse many letters, but the A is like the Angus of letters. For one thing, it has various pronunciations, sometimes it sounds like 'ey', sometimes like 'uh', sometimes like 'aw'. It is like a chameleon. It changes from 'mat' to 'mate', from 'glass' to 'glaze' and from 'hat' to 'hate', depending on which vowel it keeps company with. It even has to do the work of other letters when people become lazy in their pronunciation, like in 'whateva' or 'seeya'.

It is as selfless as Mother Theresa, coming to the rescue when a person is not sure what to say: 'aaah… let me see'. Or when someone has an epiphany: 'aaha', an orgasm: 'aaaah', feels sorry for someone: 'aaw', or just pretends to understand something complicated: 'ah (yes)'.

Singers use it to practice their voice, without even considering paying the A a decent living wage. Doctors diagnose throat conditions, again at no extra cost to them, knowing that the A has no collective bargaining power. Can you imagine if the A went on strike? The consequences are too horrible to contemplate. I couldn't finish this essey without committing orthogrephic mistekes. The Spanish language would particularly be in trouble, with their feminine endings and the poor Hawaiians wouldn't be able to talk at all, since most of the consonants in their language fell overboard when they came to Hawaii in their canoes. Besides, everybody would get lost on the islands, since all the streets have names like Kal'ia'iou'amaa'aaa'eiou.

You think that the A would be less generous, more of a snob, since it's numero uno in the alphabet. Not only is it first, it also looks sturdy, with its two supports, not like the wobbly P or the flimsy F. You can topple those letters with the flick of a finger, but the A is as stable as a rock. It will withstand a tornado and smart architects know that the shape of an A is the strongest way to build bridges, overpasses and tunnels.

The A also has a redeeming quality. You cannot get too worked up about anything, if it is preceded by the letter A. Who cares if 'a' wallet was stolen, or 'a' dog was run over? Only if it is MY wallet or YOUR dog we are talking about, do we lose our cool.

Who invented the A anyway? A genius probably. It seems to have originated in a far away land called Phoenicia, where it went by the name aleph, which means 'ox' and, as you might have guessed, represented the ideas of strength and power. Hiding behind a veil of modesty, this remarkable letter is not only generous and sturdy, it also knows when it is not wanted. It wouldn't presume to show up in front of words like 'water' or 'air'. It knows its place and limitations, which is a sign of infinite wisdom.

I could go on praising the numerous qualities of the A, but I believe it merits a far more permanent show of gratitude. Isn't the A much more important than the Minuteman or George Washington? Those two only lasted a few decades, but the A? It will still be here after most of us have turned to dust.

I therefore propose that we, as a nation, dedicate a monument to the letter A. On behalf of the millions of unsung heroes, who have been toiling day and night, on billboards, in essays and in people's voices, let us pay tribute to the A's unending efforts and give credit where credit is due. leave comment here