According to Oscar Ogg in his book, The 26 Letters (to which” an entire chapter has been added” since its original publication in 1948), Z comes at the end of our alphabet because the Romans realized they couldn’t get along without it. In the Greek alphabet, Z had been in sixth place and at first the Romans got rid of it altogether. But when they missed it so much and added it back to their alphabet, the best they could do was tack Z on at the end. And that’s where it stayed, which is better than not having a Z at all. Think of all the zippers left wide open, the zebras left standing in their field.
Perhaps we can understand then, the great sense of loss each business owner of a small Midwestern town felt when awakened one morning to find the Rs missing from all the reader boards in town. “Get elief f om the heat with ou ai conditione s and heat pumps?” declared the sign at the local hardware/variety store. ” odeo bu ge fo only $1,” the deluxe lighted Burger King sign shouted emphatically, unaware of its senseless babble. As one business owner drove through town after finding his own 18th letter missing from each word, he began to realize the extent of the town’s loss. Obviously the first thing that must be done in an abduction case like this was to call the local constabulary. And that is what he did. “Like all good police forces,” he reported, “they were concerned and tried to find the culprit.” This didn’t take long, and before a 24-hour period had passed, all the local read board Rs were assembled on the large table in the center of the police station.
“These little letters were tricky to round up,” one policeman admitted, “mostly because they’re such thin letters. Rs aren’t real easy to spot.” Before local business owners were allowed to collect their Rs, they were asked to bring a sample of their alphabets to the station so that the police could be sure the letters were being returned to their rightful owners.
How tragic to think that one day, I might wake up, the modern casual speaking American that I am, only to find that all the Gs have been removed from print. “We’re not goin’ to need them in the future. We are just fine speakin’ without them,” someone might try to argue. And I would not be able to find a suitable argument because there would be no Gs to argue with. I wouldn’t even be able to disagree.
I think we have much to lose by not carefully attending our alphabet and treasuring each tall straight stick of certain letters and each rounded curve of others. We must teach our children the value and need for each letter in our historic collection. None should become dusty with mis-use or worn from dis-use. Nothing to lose? We have everything to lose, including our Rs. Then we have our Gs to consider. I urge you to watch your Ps and Qs with passion.