Thursday, June 25, 2015


K is my favorite letter, not least because it is worth five points in Scrabble, and 5 is my favorite number. (You'd think with my interest in letters I would play the game more, but I don't have many opportunities, and besides, I've never been much good at it.) Except when it is acting like a perfect doofus sitting out at the front of a word, only to be ignored, as is only appropriate—in "knowledge," for example—K is entirely and always simply what it is: the hard, scratching noise from the back of the throat, and a letter with a lovely, intricate, angled shape in print. I am more sorry than I can say that it has been so villainously abused by the Ku Klux Klan, which has no intrinsic right to it. It pains me deeply. I would sue them for damages if I could. As you know, I bear the letter in my last name, and over the years friends have had one, two, or more in their names, so many that I have finally come to register it as "the sign of the K," which tends to make me even more favorably predisposed to them, perhaps unconsciously. Is K actually a common letter in names, much as J is a common initial? I'm not sure, but I see it a lot. K is also a pitchers' stat in baseball for a strikeout and that's really kewl. In the '60s, filthy hippies with no respect for anything set about systematically abusing it—"Amerika," and all that, which would have grown tiresome except I also associate that with Franz Kafka, who wrote a fragment of a novel called Amerika. Franz Kafka—there's the sign of the K again, double-strength. Ken Kesey. Another one. Check that out. Emily Dickinson. See, the K exerts a quiet and subtle impact as well. I admit that the long-established relation between C and K appears to be here to stay, baffling as it is. It looks better than KK would. But really, have you ever seen such a crock? C, Mr. Third Letter in the Alphabet, the malingerer that doesn't want to choose between K and S, blatantly exploits K for cover on its K case. Back that up, CK, trick it out, and thereby jack up the absurdities. These are the kinds of things someone who really cares about K may find themselves thinking about. I mean, you can't really call K elegant. It comes with elements of the honest working class (as an entirely irrelevant aside, have you ever noticed how "honest" is dishonest about having an H?). Make no mistake. K stands in as its sound with no fuss or ambiguity (except when, as previously mentioned, it sidles up to an N at the beginning of a word, and I guess that's some kind of class issue, best considered another time, under better conditions). OK, I'm not sure what else there is to say.

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