Wednesday, May 24, 2006

alphabetical order

Ever hear that joke, “Why is the alphabet in that order? Is it because of that song?”
I think I read it somewhere. It’s not a great joke, but cute. I never gave it much thought until I got to write a limerick for WWDTM about Sweden officially adding the “w” to their alphabet (upping the membership of their writing symbols to 29). I don’t think the limerick made it on the show, so here you go:

Ve Svedes had a new letter bubble through.
De Vorld-vide-veb caused so much trouble. True.
Our alphabet song’s
Almost tirty vords long.
Ve added de new letter, –
Ans: W. (Actually, double-v, but no listener would guess that.)

When I find the rhymes, I exhaustively and -tingly go through the entire alphabet, plugging the ending sound onto various letter combinations as they come up and listening to whether they make a new word or not. Whenever I get past T, I wind up switching the place of V and W because W, when applied to this system of working, makes the sound of U.

Sorry about that discursion. Wake up!

The point is, my way of working plus the nature of the story made me ask the question again: Why IS the alphabet in that order?
Why, for example, is it not in inverse Scrabble scoring order: most-used letters first?
After an extensive study (of the outside of a pillow and the inside of my eyelids), I have come to the following conclusion.

There was a conference, in Greece, and various members lobbied for the beginning letter their last names to get positions of primacy. Finally, in a spirit of compromise, the members lined up in order of girth (height was too boring after they’d had all that ouzo) and that was that.

1 comment:

Auntie B. said...

well you know, the letters of the alphabet are in numerical order; every letter has a numerical value and they appear in the alphabet sequentially.
Back in the day, the numerical value of a word was as important as its meaning.
Now its just us "wackjobs" that are in to that type of thing. Yep wackjobs and some rabbis. And Dan Brown!