Thursday, October 08, 2015


The letter Q stands in as the crown royalty queen class of the alphabet. Is there any other letter so nauseatingly cute, so entirely useless? It is eccentric in a way similar to how the knight chess piece moves, which at least can be turned to the purpose of the game. Practically everything Q does could be done as effectively by K and W in combination, or K all by itself ("out of Irak!"). Furthermore, Q has the temerity to impose a truly ridiculous requirement, which is that it will not appear in public, at least in the English language, without accompaniment of its Batman-Robin sidekick U, no doubt bare-legged too. "Wherever go I," says this silly letter in the haughty tones of the peerage (meaning itself, Q, not the letter I), "there goes U." And why is this? Does anyone know? Does anyone even ask? On the other hand, consider the rakish beauty of the circle intersected by the coy slash. In lowercase the sly variation on both p and g is elegant as silk. Here I am, suddenly charmed by Q! Quick, I need a drinq. Various American marketers over the years have demonstrated that the phonetic replacement for the sake of clarity somehow just isn't kwite convincing, or even that kwik to parse. And of course Q looms somewhat more useful in other languages, where it may be a form of the throat-clearing found in the German "ch" (generally absent as a mouth noise from English). Around here it's quickly apparent that it's quite an affectation, no question. At least we respect that about it, using it so sparingly that it ranks #25 in the alphabet for frequency of use, ahead of only Z. I want to say that even Z belongs ahead of Q for that matter, because of its undeniably unique mouth noise sound, but you can't have everything, and we'll get to that. Q does have some utility representing the word "question" (as in "a Q and A story"), signifying a transcribed interview. It was also the name of one of the worst characters ever to appear in the Star Trek franchise (though I would hazard that Lwaxana Troi still remains single worst by orders of magnitude). Maybe that's why I don't like Q. Because, let's be clear, I don't. But I think it's more likely a matter of the ridiculous unnecessary work it brings to the enterprise of the English language. Again, it might be interesting to get the perspective of children and ESL students, whatever their thoughts are on this monumentally useless letter. Why don't we just remove it—25 is a much better number than 26. That way, for postal codes, each state in the US can share one letter and there are no fractions. Think about that. Post office monolith, are you listening to me? In the long run, generations from now, the figure of Q would just become an exotic meaningless shape like a bunch of those Cyrillic letters or whatnot. At least say you'll think about it.

1 comment:

  1. But it's all ab how you ask the question, no? The quest; the queries unanswered and those unasked. Surprised by Q's infrequency-- feels like a big deal in school.