Thursday, December 17, 2015


And in the end, the letter Z: last and least in the English language. The buzzing business of Z is common in speaking. It represents a unique sound, made more often by S (and occasionally X, as previously discussed), in many pluralizing usages (such as "usages"). Note that Z does get pride of place in the word "pluralize," or actually more like the suffix "-ize," which takes passive nouns and punches you in the face with them: visualize, fossilize, modernize. Heady stuff, Z! Yet there it languishes at the back of all the letters in all ways. In cartoons, it is tripled up (or more) to indicate sleeping, some might say snoring—some might say boredom. In recent times people have begun to talk about needing their Zs, meaning sleep or naps. It's only appropriate, as the last thing. At the end of the day, sleep is what happens. Like most of the lesser-used letters—J, Q, and such—Z has a bit of a forlorn buffoonish aspect. One is tempted to make fun of its mouth noise as something to be classified with whistles, cork-popping, and whoopee cushions. Maybe that's some association with the word "kazoo." But Z also has its cozy, lazy elements—I'm only speaking "zee" truth, as the French say. Speaking of the French, in the UK they call the letter "zed," which sounds more to me like an out-of-town relative in for a surprise visit. It's so wrong I don't even know what to do with it. I'll just leave it at that. Don't forget, in spite of its lastness and leastness, Z is still often found where the action is. Consider zero, which is probably the single most interesting number if we were going to rank them (other than numerically—and no, I'm not going to write about all the numbers, that would take too long). Z stands for zebra, which most children learn early—again, a highly insignificant fact to know at all, let alone introduce into the developing human brain. At some point in recent years Z has come to stand for zombies too, which only makes sense in this crowded and overheating world. Teach that to your children. The letter Z and its insignificance reduce us to questions like, "Hey, did you ever see Zardoz?" Yes, I did, and it was about as memorable as the letter Z. Perhaps I'm engaging in blaming the victim. Which raises the question: is Z really a victim, if it is both the least used letter and the last letter in the alphabet? Isn't it actually more like a case for once in its miserable life that the English alphabet behaves rationally? Kudos, I say. Kudos. Zebras in zoos for the children, zombies in the countryside for the rest of us, the inimitable zero, and what? We know we are reaching the end now because soon all will be zzz. By the way, I still think we should kick Q out of the alphabet. I say again, 25 is a much better number than 26. Good night, everyone.

1 comment:

  1. Seems apt that this project should sign off like The Waltons. Nicely done.