From minding your Ps and Qs to wondering why X should mark the spot, Alphabetical is a book for everyone who loves words and language. Whether it's how letters are arranged on keyboards or Viking runes, textspeak or zip codes, this book will change the way you think about letters for ever.
How on Earth did we fix upon our twenty-six letters, what do they really mean, and how did we come to write them down in the first place? Michael Rosen takes you on an unforgettable adventure through the history of the alphabet in twenty-six vivid chapters, fizzing with personal anecdotes and fascinating facts. Starting with the mysterious Phoenicians and how sounds first came to be written down, he races on to show how nonsense poems work, pins down the strange story of OK, traces our seven lost letters and tackles the tyranny of spelling, among many, many other things.
His heroes of the alphabet range from Edward Lear to Phyllis Pearsall (the inventor of the A-Z), and from the two scribes of Beowulf to rappers. Each chapter takes on a different subject - codes, umlauts or the writing of dictionaries. Rosen's enthusiasm for letters positively leaps off the page, whether it's the story of his life told through the typewriters he's owned or a chapter on jokes written in a string of gags and word games.
So if you ever wondered why Hawaiian only has a thirteen-letter alphabet or how exactly to write down the sound of a wild raspberry, read on . . .
What could be more straightforward than the alphabet? And yet those familiar 26 symbols offer much food for thought, as Rosen (We're Going on a Bear Hunt), former Children's Laureate of Britain, so delightfully shows here. His beguiling journey through the alphabet will entrance anyone interested in the quirks of language and its history. Each letter receives a brief description of its written evolution and the pronunciation of its name and its sounds, followed by a relevant topic beginning with that letter, such as "D is for Disappeared Letters" and "O is for OK." The chapter on Rosen's personal history with typewriters, "Q is for QWERTY," will be a particular highlight for readers of a certain age. The diverse topics he covers also include printing fonts, diacritics ("U is for Umlauts"), and the ways that the alphabet can be manipulated to encrypt secrets. Rosen has written a charming and thought-provoking book about what written language represents, how we use it, and the joys and mysteries therein. His humor and obvious love for his subject are winning elements. The individualized graphics of each letter at the start of their respective chapters add an extra note of whimsy and pleasure.