An old school quiz question asks, “What do the letters A, I and O have in common, besides being vowels?”
The answer, of course, is that they are the three – the only three, in fact – that are words by themselves (for O, think of “O brother, where art thou?”).
There are other letters that introduce a word, sometimes being appended to it by a hyphen and in some cases the letter being an abbreviation for another word. Here is a shortlist.
A-Train: The first line of the city-owned and operated Independent Subway System (IND) of the New York Subway System, opened in 1932, naturally, B, C and other lines followed. On the other hand, the ‘A’ in a military ‘A-Team’ stands for ‘alpha’, referring to the best team member of an elite group specialising in an infiltration skill or a particular mission-set such as combat diving.
B-movie: Low-budget western, horror or serial movies that were clubbed with the main film (the ‘A’ movie) as part of a double feature.
C Note: A slang term for an American $100 bill.
D-Day: An instance of an alphabet not standing for anything, but added on to emphasise a special or landmark day. E-mail: Electronic, of course. F-hole: A sound hole in instruments from the violin, mandolin or viol families, from the shape of the hole.
G-Man: Short for ‘government man’, slang for agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, etc.
H-bomb: The Hydrogen bomb (though in most applications the majority of its destructive energy comes from uranium fission).
I-beam: A beam in the shape of a capital ‘I’, made of structural steel and used in construction and civil engineering.
K-Mart: Chain of American discount stores named after its co-founder Sebatian Kresge.
Q-tip: They are cotton buds, or ear buds, as we all know. But what does the ‘Q’ stand for? It’s ‘quality’.
Z-drug: One of several drugs that is a hypnotic, used in the treatment of insomnia, and most of whose names begin with ‘z’ – appropriate as sleep is of represented by ‘zzzz’.