A Is for A
What is “A”? he A is the root: it’s where we begin, the building block of anything else we want to say. “Everything begins with A” begins Gertrude Stein’s To Do: A Book of Alphabets and Birthdays. 1 The alphabet is radical. Spell-casters have looked to the runic alphabet for centuries. The Ouija board relies on the mystical space of the alphabet as the medium through which we will contact the spirits. In Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, Levin proposes to Kitty using an alphabetical code. Double abecedarians have the alphabet running from a to z down the left-hand side of the poem and from z to a down the right-hand side; Albert the Mason wears a fez, / But the fez is shaped like a cherry might be the first two lines in such a form.2 Philosophically, we go from A to Z; geographically, from A to B; tautologically, A to A. A is the universal affirmative: “All X are Y.” A is the first in a series of hypothetical things: A is partners with B. Everything in the universe is either A or not-a. A means acceleration. A is the most common blood group. Ace. Ampere. Alto. The scarlet letter. Q and.
THow to Spell “A” A was originally a consonant. Ever since the beginnings of the alphabet, A has always been the beginning of the alphabet. In 1998, archaeologist John Darnell discovered rock carvings in Egypt’s Valley of Terror, about thirty miles north of the ancient city of Thebes, that proved that the alphabet as we know it was invented around 2000 B.C. by Semitic peoples living in Egypt. That first alphabet was sixteen to twenty-two characters long and based on hieroglyphs. This early alphabet was technically an abjad, or consonant-only, alphabet. (Semitic writing systems don’t have symbols for vowels.) The first letter, the Semitic consonant aleph, meaning “ox,” was drawn with the sign of an ox’s head. Beth, the next letter, was adapted