Thursday, June 11, 2015


It's not hard to see that the letter I is the single most egotistical of all 26 of them, particularly given the great vowel shift in the English language in the Middle Ages. And this despite its deceptively modest appearance: a single vertical line, adorned formally top and bottom with little horizontal hat and shoes. Just a vertical line? Oh, please. It's the one letter that arrogates to itself the singular first person. When someone mentions I they are always talking about the most important person they know, every time. Then there's the little matter of the pronunciation, most especially that long I, again for the singular first person. One vocal noise is not enough for this imp, at least not since the Middle Ages. Whereas once (and still, in most European languages) we were only required to bleat "eee" in order to sound it, now we must throw an "ahh" in front of that, very nearly multisyllabic style. This is so firmly embedded that ahh-eee, for one, find that ahh-eee must take a moment and listen to what ahh-eee am saying when ahh-eee say ahh-eee. Trahh-eee it yourself. Note the jaw movement. I am also frankly puzzled how the rock star Prince, in his still handy and often useful and even prescient compressions of the language 30 years ago, for example reducing "you" to the letter U (and U know we'll be talking about that again), a favorite I believe of smartphone users everywhere now. He complicated I in a wonderfully poetic way with the graphic image of an eyeball. Not sure how much  like that in practical use, however, because 'm not sure it quite registers properly in the reading, if you see what  mean. 'm just not going to use it ever, starting now until forever. I mean it. It's just utterly, strangely counterintuitive for reading. Yet makes sense when viewed as the secret actual ego of the letter I, its id let's say, betraying its profound narcissism. Prince's I presumes itself to be the naked window to the soul itself. Nice one. It is otherwise unprepossessing, this phallic rod—9th letter of the alphabet, third vowel. But I say again: don't be fooled here. I has ambitions to be the all of everything. If you took a poll, you would find that a near absolute majority always agrees with I. These people have no scruples and fewer morals to clutter their terrible predispositions and inclinations. They only think of I. In its lowercase version it has planetary pretensions, the only letter in the English alphabet with a satellite detached yet forever attending it, that dot which you must dot as you also must cross Ts. Ha—when comes, at long last, the eclipse, I? I ask U. I blends with E to inflect the sound in either long direction—U say E-ther, I say I-ther—at random, willy-nilly, depending on the choice of the speaker. But that's neither here nor there, either.

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