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Quotations about Letters
and the English Alphabet

Letter A. —

A.A.A.A.A.  A method for being first in a dictionary. ~Maxwell Shane, in Leonard Louis Levinson, Webster's Unafraid Dictionary, 1967

      Eeyore had three sticks on the ground... Two of the sticks were touching at one end, but not at the other, and the third stick was laid across them... "It's an A." "Oh," said Piglet. "Not O, A," said Eeyore...
      "Do you know what A means...? It means Learning, it means Education... People come and go in this Forest... It's just three sticks to them. But to the Educated... it's a great and glorious A..."  ~A.A. Milne, The House at Pooh Corner, "Chapter Five: In Which Rabbit Has a Busy Day, and We Learn What Christopher Robin Does in the Mornings," 1928

Letter B. —

B.  The second letter of the alphabet. It is called a vocal labial consonant, which, no doubt, serves it right. ~Noah Lott (George V. Hobart), The Silly Syclopedia, 1905

I love my love with a B... because in our teens we stayed all night at each other's house on alternate Saturdays and read aloud until four in the morning Brontë's "Jane Eyre"... (but not without weeping)! ~Althea H. Warren, 1935

B hopeful, B happy, B cheerful, B kind,
B busy of body, B modest of mind,
B earnest, B truthful, B firm and B fair...
B watchful, B ready, B open, B frank,
B manly to all men, whatever B their rank;
B just and B generous, B honest, B wise...
B temperate, B steadfast, to anger B slow.
B thoughtful, B thankful, whate'er may B tide...
B pleasant, B patient, B fervent to all,
B best if you can, but B humble withal.
B prompt and B dutiful, still B polite;
B reverent, B quiet, and B sure and B right...
B grateful, B cautious of those who B tray.
B tender, B loving, B good and B nign,
B loved thou shalt B, and all else B thine.
~"A Swarm of Bees," The British Bee Journal, and Bee Keeper's Adviser, 1882

Letter C. —

C.  The third letter of the alphabet. It is also used in music, especially by prima donnas who try to reach it and fall flat. ~Noah Lott (George V. Hobart), The Silly Syclopedia, 1905

C... the first thing to appear in Cash, Corruption, Conviction, and Cell. ~Gideon Wurdz (Charles Wayland Towne), The Altogether New Foolish Dictionary, 1914

Letter D. —

D.  The letter of the alphabet which always runs fourth. ~Noah Lott (George V. Hobart), The Silly Syclopedia, 1905

I don't give a √D²... ~Gelett Burgess  [Frankly, my dear... —tg]

Letter E. —

Remember:  "I" before "E" — except in Budweiser. ~Author unknown

Letter F. —

F.  The sixth letter of the alphabet. It is formed by the passage of the breath between the lower lip and the upper incisive teeth, but that doesn't seem to worry it any. ~Noah Lott (George V. Hobart), The Silly Syclopedia, 1905

F  used to be branded on the left cheek of criminals and meant Felon. —Brewer. Nowadays, it's a brand on the hip, and means Flask. ~Gideon Wurdz (Charles Wayland Towne), The Altogether New Foolish Dictionary, 1914

I love my love with an  F  because she gave me my copy of Arthur Davison Ficke's "Sonnets of a Portrait Painter" (which another wise friend, incognito, has since borrowed, forever, I fear). ~Althea H. Warren, 1935

Letter G. —

G.  The seventh letter of the alphabet. Used by the ancients as an expression of surprise, thus: Hully Gee! ~Noah Lott (George V. Hobart), The Silly Syclopedia, 1905

Letter H. —

H.  The eighth letter of the alphabet, which is all broken up because Englishmen have dropped it so often. ~Noah Lott (George V. Hobart), The Silly Syclopedia, 1905

'Twas whisper'd in heaven, 'twas mutter'd in hell,
And echo caught faintly the words as it fell;
On the confines of earth was permitted to rest,
And the depths of the ocean its presence confess'd.
'Twill be found in the sphere when 'tis riven asunder;
Be seen in the light'ning, and heard in the thunder.
'Twas allotted to man with his earliest breath,
Attends at his birth, and awaits him in death;
It presides o'er his happiness, honour and health,
Is the prop of his house, and the end of his wealth,
Without it the soldier, the seaman may roam,
But woe to the wretch that expels it from home.
In the whispers of conscience its voice will be found,
Nor e'en in the whirlwind of passion be drown'd;
'Twill not soften the heart, and though deaf to the ear
'Twill make it acutely and instantly hear.
In shade let it rest, like a delicate flower,
Oh! breathe on it softly, it dies in an hour.
~Lord Byron, "Enigma"

Letter I. —

I  is the first letter of the alphabet, the first word of the language, the first thought of the mind, the first object of affection. In grammar it is a pronoun of the first person and singular number. Its plural is said to be We, but how there can be more than one myself is doubtless clearer to the grammarians than it is to the author of this incomparable dictionary. Conception of two myselves is difficult, but fine. The frank yet graceful use of "I" distinguishes a good writer from a bad; the latter carries it with the manner of a thief trying to cloak his loot. ~Ambrose Bierce

I... it stands for I.O.U. — a kind of Information of the Vowels, so to speak. ~Gideon Wurdz (Charles Wayland Towne), The Altogether New Foolish Dictionary, 1914

Whoever dreamed up Scrabble had an exaggerated idea of how many seven-letter words have five  i's. ~Robert Brault,

Letter J. —

J  is a consonant in English, but some nations use it as a vowel — than which nothing could be more absurd. ~Ambrose Bierce, The Cynic's Word Book, 1906

Letter K. —

K.  The eleventh letter of the alphabet pronounced K, as in Knuckle. ~Noah Lott (George V. Hobart), The Silly Syclopedia, 1905

K.  This letter used to be employed as a brand for false accusers; it stood for the Greek word "kalumnia." —Brewer. Here we deftly place an "O" in front of it, and the liability "K" becomes the asset "O.K." ~Gideon Wurdz (Charles Wayland Towne), The Altogether New Foolish Dictionary, 1914

He was a very nice person. History has no record of him. There is a moral in that, somewhere. ~Harlan Ellison, "From A to Z, in the Chocolate Alphabet," 1976

Letter L. —

L.  The twelfth letter of the alphabet, captured some years ago for the purpose of describing the Elevated Railroad. ~Noah Lott (George V. Hobart), The Silly Syclopedia, 1905

Letter M. —

M.  The thirteenth letter of the alphabet, which very few people use because thirteen is unlucky. ~Noah Lott (George V. Hobart), The Silly Syclopedia, 1905

I love my love with an  M  because through all one year in riding to work and back together, we carried Edna St. Vincent Millay's "Fatal Interview" in the automobile, and learned twenty-seven of the sonnets by heart. (A traffic stop is just time enough to say a sonnet if you really know it well.) ~Althea H. Warren, 1935

Letter N. —

      "N is the letter."
      "Now then, you've got five minutes in which to write down everything you can beginning with N. Go."
      I took out my pencil and began to think. I know it sounds an easy game to you now, as you sit at your desk surrounded by dictionaries; but when you are squeezed on to the edge of a sofa, given a very blunt pencil and a thin piece of paper, and challenged to write in five minutes all the words you can think of beginning with a certain letter — well, it is another matter altogether. I thought of no end of things which started with K, or even L, or "rhinoceros" which starts with an R...
      "I must keep calm," I said and in a bold hand I wrote Napoleon. Then after a moment's thought, I added Nitro-glycerine, and Nats. "This is splendid," I told myself. Then I suddenly remembered that gnats were spelt with a G. However, I decided to leave them, in case nobody else remembered. And on the fourth minute I added Non-sequitur.
      "Time!" said somebody.
      ~A. A. Milne, "The Complete Kitchen," 1908  [a little altered —tg]

The Greeks suffer linguistic confusion immediately when they attempt English, for in Modern Greek nay (spelled nai) means yes, P.M. indicates the hours before noon, and the letter N stands for South. ~H. L. Mencken, The American Language, 1921

Letter Ñ. —

The entire history of our enjoyment of poetry might be summed up in that curious symbol which appears over the letter n in the word "cañon." A rise, a fall, a rise. ~Robert Haven Schauffler, Printed Joy, 1914

Letter O. —

O.  The fifteenth letter of the alphabet, used principally by the Irish in front of their names. ~Noah Lott (George V. Hobart), The Silly Syclopedia, 1905

Letter P. —

P.  The sixteenth letter of the alphabet, used principally in pickled peppers. ~Noah Lott (George V. Hobart), The Silly Syclopedia, 1905

P.  This character was the rude outline of a man's mouth (from the Hebrew "pe," meaning mouth), the upright part being the neck. —Brewer.  To us, P means Politician, who's all mouth, with not enough upright to be noticeable. ~Gideon Wurdz (Charles Wayland Towne), The Altogether New Foolish Dictionary, 1914

Letter Q. —

Q.  The seventeenth and the most hunted letter in the alphabet, because it is always followed by u. ~Noah Lott (George V. Hobart), The Silly Syclopedia, 1905

Letter R. —

R.  The eighteenth letter of the alphabet, used principally to begin a college yell; thus, Rah! Rah! Rah! ~Noah Lott (George V. Hobart), The Silly Syclopedia, 1905

R.  This is the so-called dog-letter, because a dog in snarling says "R-r-r-r-r-r!" ~Gideon Wurdz (Charles Wayland Towne), The Altogether New Foolish Dictionary, 1914

Letter S. —

S.  The nineteenth letter of the alphabet, which is called a sibilant, because it makes a hissing sound like a goose. ~Noah Lott (George V. Hobart), The Silly Syclopedia, 1905

S... the one big Crook of the whole alphabet. ~Gideon Wurdz (Charles Wayland Towne), The Altogether New Foolish Dictionary, 1914

Letter T. —

T.  The twentieth letter of the alphabet, so called because the author of the alphabet always drank coffee. ~Noah Lott (George V. Hobart), The Silly Syclopedia, 1905

Letter U. —

U.  The twenty-first letter of the alphabet, about which there is some scandal because it is always tagging after Q. ~Noah Lott (George V. Hobart), The Silly Syclopedia, 1905

Letter V. —

V.  The twenty-second letter of the alphabet, used as a pet name for a five-dollar bill. ~Noah Lott (George V. Hobart), The Silly Syclopedia, 1905

Letter W. —

W.  The twenty-third letter of the alphabet, which wasn't treated very well in the matter of a name. ~Noah Lott (George V. Hobart), The Silly Syclopedia, 1905

W is merely two V's posing as Siamese twins. But financially speaking, two V's are always equal to one X. ~Charles Wayland Towne, The Altogether New Foolish Dictionary, by Gideon Wurdz, 1914

W  (double U) has, of all the letters in our alphabet, the only cumbrous name, the names of the others being monosyllabic. This advantage of the Roman alphabet over the Grecian is the more valued after audibly spelling out some simple Greek word, like επιχοριαμβικός. Still, it is now thought by the learned that other agencies than the difference of the two alphabets may have been concerned in the decline of "the glory that was Greece" and the rise of "the grandeur that was Rome." There can be no doubt, however, that by simplifying the name of W (calling it "wow," for example) our civilization could be, if not promoted, at least better endured. ~Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary, 1911

Letter X. —

X.  The twenty-fourth letter of the alphabet. It was so late getting in that very few words are fastened to it. ~Noah Lott (George V. Hobart), The Silly Syclopedia, 1905

X  in our alphabet being a needless letter has an added invincibility to the attacks of the spelling reformers, and like them, will doubtless last as long as the language. ~Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary, 1911

X  Y  Z.  These letters may equal anything. ~The Silly Syclopedia, Containing "Daffynishuns" of the Words of Slang Language Spoken by Midshipmen of the U.S. Naval Academy, by "Billy Bilger," 1908

Letter Y. —

Y.  The letter of Independence — it's the fourth of July. —Benjamin Franklin  ~Leonard Louis Levinson, Webster's Unafraid Dictionary, 1967

Letter Z. —

Z  is merely  N  tipped over on its back, supinely stretched in slothful slumber. Which probably accounts for the fact that it does so little work in the English Word Factory. ~Charles Wayland Towne, The Altogether New Foolish Dictionary, by Gideon Wurdz, 1914

Thou whoreson zed! thou unnecessary letter! ~William Shakespeare, King Lear, c.1605  [II, 2, Earl of Kent, to Oswald]

ZEBRA.  An animal used principally to illustrate the letter Z. ~Noah Lott (George V. Hobart), The Silly Syclopedia, 1905

Z  is the Zebra the Boys didn't meet,
But without which no Alphabet's really complete.
~Oliver Herford, The Peter Pan Alphabet, 1907

Z.  The twenty-sixth letter of the alphabet, and I'm glad of it. ~Noah Lott (George V. Hobart), The Silly Syclopedia, 1905

Beyond Z. —

"My alphabet starts where your alphabet ends!
My alphabet starts with this letter called YUZZ.
It's the letter I use to spell Yuzz-a-ma-Tuzz.
You'll be sort of surprised what there is to be found
Once you go beyond Z and start poking around!..."
~Dr. Seuss, On Beyond Zebra!, 1955

Alphabet. —

A.B.C.DARIAN — seems to have been an ancient term for pedagogue. Wood, in his Athenæ Oxoniensis, speaking of Thomas Farnabie, says — "When he landed in Cornwall, his distresses made him stoop so low, as to be an A.b.c.darian, and several weeks were taught their hornbooks by him." By assuming his title, its wearer certainly proves himself to be a man of letters; but my friend T. H. suggests, that the schoolmaster who wishes to establish his aptitude for his office, instead of taking the three first, had better designate himself by the two last letters of the alphabet. ~Horace Smith, The Tin Trumpet; or, Heads and Tales for the Wise and Waggish, 1836

...'tis said Grand Tales there be
Still biding in the A B C —
      If this be true,
Quick!... Cast your golden net.
Maybe we have the grandest yet
      In store for you.
~Oliver Herford, "A Round Robin to J. M. Barrie, from His Humble and Devoted Servants THE ALPHABET," The Peter Pan Alphabet, 1907

It seems, at first sight, very singular that a blind child should be taught to read; but observe what the common process is with every child: a child sees certain marks upon a plain piece of paper, which he is taught to call A, B, C; but if you were to raise certain marks in relief upon pasteboard, as you may of course do, and teach a blind child to call these marks which he felt A, B, C, a blind child would as easily learn his alphabet by his fingers as another would do by his eyes, and might go on feeling through Homer or Virgil as we do by persevering in looking at the book. Just in the same manner, I should not be surprised if the alphabet could be taught by a series of well-contrived flavours; and we may even live to see the day when men may be taught to smell out their learning, and when a fine scenting day shall be, (which it certainly is not at present) considered as a day peculiarly favourable to study. ~Sydney Smith, "On the Powers of External Perception," c.1804

At my house, when a missing pawn shows up in the Scrabble tiles, it counts as an extra blank. ~Robert Brault,

Alphabetical order makes strange bedfellows. Dickens and Dibdin must get on capitally and convivially together, but what an ill-assorted couple are Mrs. Humphry Ward and the beloved Artemus of the same name! George Borrow may ask, 'Pray, who is this John Collins Bossidy?'... John Hookham Frere, singing of the mailed lobster clapping his broad wings, must feel his frivolity uncomfortably hushed for a moment by his next-door neighbour, Charles Frohman, on the point of going down with the Lusitania. And apropos of Frere, there rises before me the portentous figure of my great-great-grandfather, Erasmus Darwin. ~Bernard Darwin, 1941 introduction to The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations

Poetry is a type-font design for an alphabet of fun, hate, love, death. ~Carl Sandburg, 1923

Meanwhile, Scaramouch took himself off and applied to all sorts of Divination. He tried Æromancy, or divination by the air; Anemoscopy, or introspection of the winds; Arithmomancy, or divination by numbers; Astromancy, or divination by the stars. He divined according to Botanomancy, or by plants... Geomancy, by the earth; Horoscopy, by calculation of nativities... Keraunoscopy, by thunder... Nephelemancy, the clouds; Oinomancy, wine; Ornithascopy, birds; Pelomancy, mud; by Psychomancy, evocation of souls... He divined moreover by Rhapsodomancy, verses of poets; by Skiamancy, shadows; by Stoicomancy, the elements; by Theurgy, celestial spirits; and Uranoscopy, the heavens... Xylomancy, wood; by Ylomancy, forests; by Zoomancy, of living things. And thus, having gone through the alphabet of Divination, without discovering where the object was, gave a great cry of hullaballiboowhoohooyoosee, and went to sleep. ~Anonymous, "Pontiprus," in the Southern Literary Gazette, 1850  [a little altered –tg]

C is for the Candy trimmed around the Christmas tree
H is for the Happiness with all the family
R is for the Reindeer prancing by the window pane
I is for the Icing on the cake as sweet as sugar cane
S is for the Stocking on the chimney wall
T is the Toys beneath the tree so tall
M is for the Mistletoe where ev'ry one is kissed
A is for the Angels who make up the Christmas list
S is for old Santa who makes ev'ry kid his pet
Be good and he'll bring you ev'rything in your Christmas alphabet
~Buddy Kaye and Jules Loman, "Christmas Alphabet," 1954, performed by The McGuire Sisters ♫

You don't need to know the whole alphabet of Safety. The a, b, c of it will save you if you follow it: Always Be Careful. ~Colorado School of Mines Magazine, 1918

It has been said that death ends all things. This is a mistake. It does not end the volume of practical quotations, and it will not until the sequence of the alphabet is so materially changed as to place D where Z now stands. ~Harper's Bazar: Facetiæ, 1888, quoted in Anna L. Ward, A Dictionary of Quotations in Prose, 1889

All letters of the alphabet
      The righteous way should choose,
But two of them, especially,
      Should mind their P's and Q's.
A deal of trouble in this world,
      And much that goes awry,
Could be prevented easily
      By these two U and I.
If U and I are cross, you see,
      There's bound to be a fuss.
If U and I untidy are,
      Somewhere there'll be a muss.
If U and I are selfish, there
      Will some one suffer wrong.
If U and I rob birds' nests, why,
      The world will lose a song.
If some one feels dejected, or
      'Tis cloudy for a while,
The sunshine may come back again
      If U or I but smile.
If U should grumble, whine or pout,
      Or I should snarl and fret,
A storm would soon be raging that
      We should not soon forget!
So U, look out, and mind your ways!
      And I must likewise do.
And keep a cheery corner where
      The skies are always blue.
The A's and B's and E's and O's
      Do work that's good and great,
But U and I can do the most
      To keep this old world straight.
~Pauline Frances Bishop Camp, c.1909

An author plants the alphabet — and harvests flowers, nourishment, and weeds. ~Terri Guillemets

I could eat alphabet soup and [$h¡t]  better lyrics. ~Johnny Mercer, c.1975, unverified per Nigel Rees, in Cassell Companion to Quotations, 1997

For a Tragedy and a Comedy are both composed of the same alphabet. ~Aristotle (384–322 BCE)

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Original post date 2007 Oct 8
1st major revision 2021 Aug 4
Last saved 2022 Jan 09 Sun 09:47 PST