Sunday, December 18, 2005

What would we do without W?

Benjamin Franklin, Mark Twain, and Bernard Shaw have all proposed changes to our alphabet. Standing in their esteemed company requires extraordinary brilliance or extraordinary arrogance. Several months ago some of my neighbors started a grass roots campaign to rid our alphabet of the letter W. The lawn signs, appearing up and down my street are fairly simple in appearance: a big letter W inside a circle with a slash through it.

At first I thought they'd visited a City Slickers-inspired dude ranch and returned with fresh visions of Jack Palance's Curly in their saddle-shaken sun-baked noggins, inspiring the naming of their homes to The Nasty-W. But my neighbors aren't the cattle-drive type and the coincidence of so many Casa sin W's appearing at once suggested a coordinated plot.

Most of these signs are difficult to find now. Michigan's winter got an early and snowy start so the movement is mostly mute until the spring. The no-W faithful will have to rely on bumper stickers and buttons.

One of Franklin's suggestions was to represent "th" by combining the 't' and 'h' into a single glyph that looked like an h with a hash on the stem. He also eliminated the letter c replacing its hard and soft sounds with K and S respectively. My neighbors' propaganda has proposed no substitutes for the letter w or the unique sound it makes -- markedly different from any other.

But my neighbors have been delinquent to circulate petitions for the new alphabet, explain their rationale, or provide examples of how a W-less alphabet would function. In my impatience I've developed some of my own.

The new alphabet is more easily understood if you fake a French accent. For a real authentic "Inpector Jacques Clouseau" sound replace W with V, S with Z, and TH with Z.

Veaponz of maz deztruction
Share ze vealth -- higher vage vithholding taxez!
Viva le Velfare!
"I did not have zexual relationz vith that voman"

As cosmopolitan as it sounds, I prefer keeping W in the alphabet, though Franklin's suggestion of eliminating C would simplify spelling bees.

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