By George Brown
A is a special letter. Why else would it have been selected to be the first letter of the alphabet? I’m not telling you anything you didn’t already know by pointing out that alpha, which we borrowed from the Greek’s, means “beginning”. But did you know the Greeks borrowed both alpha and beta from the Phoenicians? I didn’t think so.
In Phoenicianese the alpha symbol stood for “ox” and the beta symbol stood for “house.” This shows how important a man’s ox and his house were in olden times, not unlike the importance of a man’s truck and his man-cave today. Of course, a man’s wife is also important – always has been and always will be. This explains why God, the Father of all men, said, “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, or his ox, or his house, nor anything else that is thy neighbor’s.” That’s pretty good advice, which I try to abide by.
Depending on who you ask, there are approximately 6,550 words in the English language that begin with the letter A. The shortest, as you might have already guessed, is the word “a”. But do you know the longest word beginning with the letter A?
You’ve probably heard this word but never actually used it. Coming in with eleven syllables and containing more letters than the entire alphabet is the word antidisestablishmentarianism. Let’s all say it together – AN-Ti-DIS-ES-TAB-LISH-MEN-TAR-E-AN-ISM.
“Can you use it in a sentence, please?” Okay, I’ll use it in a sentence, but keep in mind this is my interpretation of its meaning based the original use of the word in England two centuries ago. Antidisestablishmentarianism – a political view holding to the idea or principle that religion (i.e., Judeo-Christian beliefs/values) should not be separated from laws established under the constitution.” Serious readers understand that this issue is as relevant today as it was when our forefathers left England in pursuit of religious freedom in 1620.
On a lighter note, some rather unusual words begin with the letter A. These include such words as Amathophobia, Apodysopgilla, Anaphalantiasis, and Anthropophagous. I know you don’t want to take time to look these up so here are the definitions
Amathophobia – A fear of dust (not a fear of difficult math problems, as the spelling might suggest.)
Apodysopgilla – Feverish desire to undress. No, I’m not making this up.
Anaphalantiasis – Falling out of the eyebrows.
Anthropophagous – Eating humans.
At a more thoughtful and personal level, I like the letter A because so many important words with positive connotations begin with A – words like Attitude, Acceptance, Acknowledge, Affirm, Amazing, Awesome, Astounding, Aspiring, Affectionate, Appreciate, Accountable, Affable, and Awe-inspiring, to name but a few. I’m tempted to elaborate about what each of these words means to me, but I’ll let you contemplate them without commentary.
So, this concludes this week’s letter lesson. Next week’s column will be brought to you by the letter S, or I may tell the story about the time I encountered Sasquatch at the old oak tree in Half Acre Woods.
George Brown is a freelance writer. He lives in Jackson Township.