Getting down to 24

Few double-digit integers are more interesting than 26. Salaried employees who get paid biweekly get 26 paychecks per year. There are 26 red cards in a standard deck, and oddly enough 26 black ones, too. There are 26 cantons in Switzerland. There are precisely 26 bones in the normal human foot and ankle. Baseball Hall of Fame members Billy Williams and Wade Boggs had their # 26 jerseys retired by the Chicago Baby Bears and Boston Crimson Hose, respectively. And of course everyone knows 26 is the only number that’s one greater than the product of an integer multiplied by itself AND one less than a perfect cube.

But while there’s much that’s attractive about the product of thirteen and two, it’s clear 26 is wholly inappropriate for the number of letters in an alphabet. It could be worse; the Hawaiian alphabet contains a mere 13 letters, which are clearly too few. Conversely those accustomed to the modern English alphabet see one consisting of 29 (Russian, Turkish, or Vietnamese), 33 (Dinka) or 44 (Hungarian) letters as far too confusing to even think about.

But for the sake of organization our system of printed writing would be much better off with precisely 24 characters. Twenty-four letters can be neatly grouped evenly and easily. Four identically-sized sets of letters would work, as would a half-dozen foursomes, three octets, eight trios, two dozens or twelve pairs. Good luck subdividing the current alphabet into small, evenly divided groups. Your choices are thirteen couples or two ungainly baker’s dozens.

But getting down to a more ideal twenty-four symbols involves eliminating two of the current ones, and some would say that’s not possible. “You can’t change anything that’s been around that long,” the change-resistant naysayers will indignantly claim. Really? Ask any disappointed devotee of the former planet Pluto about that!

So which symbols get voted off the island? The 10th letter would be a candidate, but it might chust be too hard to chunk. American history books would have to be re-edited in order to include Chessee Chames and Chanis Choplin. Contemporary Americans like Chone Chett, Hoolio Iglesias, Cherry Seinfeld, Michael Chordan and Vice-president Choe Biden would all obchect to that, as would live Chacksons like Chessee, Chanet, and Chermaine, not to mention the descendants of Andrew, Stonewall, and Michael.

The letter immediately after the one referenced above is another candidate for removal, although it would involve some disadvantages, particularly for Chris Christopherson and the Cardashians. On the other hand, it’s possible eliminating the current alphabet’s 11th letter might do society some good. The white supremacists who burn crosses and wear pillowcases over their heads might permanently disband if the letter between J and L were eliminated, as it’s entirely possible no one involved with the organization has the imagination or creativity necessary to rename the group were its one initial permanently eliminated.

The last letter of the current alphabet rarely seems necessary, but it likely would be agonising to eulojighs a letter that’s vital at Kwansuh, not to mention Bar Mittsvahs. Without the current alphabet’s last letter dussins of laysee boosers would have to find a new way to snews if too many drinks had them feeling dissy.

The bottom line: there are two letters that could be dropped from the alphabet tomorrow without creating even the slightest problem. Without them young people could still answer kwestions on kwizzes. Their parents could still kwell and/or kwench their thirst by kwaffing a beverage or two. Muslims could still kwietly worship at a mosk of their choice. Kwartets of Kwakers could go anteeking. Brusk people prone to kwarreling could try conckering croakay, or kwilting. The 17th letter isn’t needed for ducks to continue kwacking, snakes to go on skweezing, or for the San Andreas Fault to, on occasion, start kwayking.

The other letter to go wouldn’t be missed by members of either secks, even musicians who play the sacksophone or the zylophone. You don’t have to be smart as a focks (or strong as an ocks) to know that the neckst letter bound for ecksamination (and ultimately eckstinction) lies between W and Y. There are plenty of ecksamples of words that currently contain this letter; you could fill a good-sized bocks with them. But in reality there’s no eckscuse for eckszibbiting this letter any longer. It should be ecksized. And once that’s done it shouldn’t ever be eckzumed.

Don’t consider a 24-letter alphabet viable? Think again. You just read a 748-word essay that used it!

Andy Young generally arrives loudly at the school where he teaches English and Literacy, but at day’s end he kwietly ecksits.

Andy Young
January 10, 2017

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