Sponsored by:

Comment, blog & share photos

Log in | Become a member
The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, March 7, 2010

Q is the loneliest letter, and why

By Charles Memminger

Being a man of letters, I find them fascinating. Not letters, like "Dear John" letters, but letters, like those that appear frequently in the alphabet. (Longtime readers will recall when I wrote an entire column without using the letters Q, A or Z. In typing schools around the country, they still speak of it.) So I was amazed to come across things about letters I didn't know in one of my favorite compendiums of human knowledge, "The Book of Useless Information." Here are a few things about letters you may not know:

• Every letter in the alphabet but one has only one syllable. (W has three.)

• Only three world capitals begin with the letter O: Oslo, Norway; Ottawa, Canada and Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.

• Only one number has the same number of letters as its value. (Four).

• The most used letter in the alphabet is E and the least used is Q.

Those revelations spurred me to dig further into the exciting world of letters and uncover some amazing things on my own:

• There are actually 2,856 letters in the English alphabet but only 26 of them appear in the "visual spectrum." Before A there are letters in the ultraviolet and infrared spectrums that can only be seen with special glasses, and after Z there are letters in the "Weird, Hazy Spectrum" and several letters that manifest themselves only at 10 to the 23rd times 6.3 gigahertz.

• "Stewardesses" is the longest word typed with just the left hand. But if you type it, you will be charged with sexual harassment by the International Flight Attendants' Guild.

• The most despised letter in the alphabet is Q, which is why it is the least used. Other letters just hate its guts. In 1746, the letter Q, lonely and despondent, took the letter U hostage, which is why you always see those two letters together. (Q is holding a knife to U's neck.)

• Hawaiian language has only 12 letters. AND ALL OF THEM ARE VOWELS!

• The longest word in the English language has 1,947 letters and means "a word that has never been spelled correctly."

• Other letters in the alphabet make fun of the letter W for being fat.

• The "juiciest" letters are F and P. Saying words out loud that start with those two letters causes 73 percent more spittle to be ejected than any others combined.

• In the alphabet, no other letters mind the Ps and Qs.

• Despite its reputation, the letter Z rarely sleeps.

• The first mechanical typewriter organized letter keys in one long line from A to Z and was 4 feet wide. It took three secretaries standing shoulder to shoulder to operate it at one time.

• Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, has more vowels than citizens.

Reach Charles Memminger at http://charleyworld.honadvblogs.com.