Thursday 16 November 2017

The Unhelpful Alphabet

Image result for alpha bravo charlieI spent my schooldays being asked whether I was related to Bruce Forsyth or Frederick Forsyth. It therefore bothers me that, now I have come to man's estate, nobody knows how to spell my name. But I can also never bring myself to say "Like Bruce".

Anyhow, I spend a lot of time on the phone feeling slightly peeved as I say "F for forest, O for oligarch, R for Rabelaisian..."

Your mind tends to go blank unless you happen to know the NATO phonetic alphabet - Alpha, Bravo, Charlie etc. And I do sometimes find myself, in a fit of intolerable cruelty, throwing odd words in there. "S for sesquipedalianism".

But then it occurred to me to wonder what the least helpful phonetic alphabet would be, on the basis that if you're going to be unfair to be people in customer service who are just doing their job, you should be unfair properly, methodically and with malice aforethought.

The result is this. The Phorsighth Phonetic Alphabet. It's a bit weak in places. L is a cop-out. If you have any improvements, please leave them in the comments. It, of course, works best when read aloud.

A for Aitch (or Are, or Aye)

B for Bdelygmia

C for Cue (or Chute or Chthonic)

D for Double-U (or Djinn)

E for Ewe (or Ex or Eye)

F for Fill (to confuse Philips)

G for Gnaw

H for Heir

I for Itself

J for Jägermeister

K for Knight

L for Lwei (an Angolan monetary unit. One hundred lweis make a kwanza) Apparently, the Polish town of Lodz is pronounced Wodge, but that may be cheating.

M for Mnemonic

N for Night

O for Our

P for Phew

Q for Quay

R for Rwanda

S for See

T for Tmesis (or Tsar)

U for… um [long pause and then continue suddenly]

V for Vroom (although I was thinking of vrbaite, “A sulphide of thallium, mercury, arsenic, and antimony”, from the Czech, of course).

W for Why

X for Xenagogue (a tour guide)

Y for You

Z for Zloty

[Edit: improvements are already being made C for Cue, Lodz/Wodge for L, and T for Tsar]

As I say, if you have improvements, I'd love to hear them. In other news, Djinn sounds like gin, which leads me back to my new book A Short History of Drunkenness blah, blah, blah. There's a cartoon about it on page 34 of the new Private Eye, and you can as ever buy it from these people.

Oh, and in other news, I shall be doing an event in Clapham on Monday the 11th of November about Dickens' Christmas Carol. Well, it will actually be Dickens' Christmas Carol performed by the wonderful Martin Prest, and I shall provide explanations of where the Christmas traditions come from. More information here.

And I shall be talking about A Short History of Drunkenness at the Hungerford Bookshop on December the sixth.

I may be Forsyth, but this is forsythia


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  2. The Dyslexic's Alphabet

    as written by Sid Kipper
    A is for R as in are you sixteen
    Also for aural if you see what I mean
    C is for cue with which pool is played
    And D is for duty which we try to evade
    E is for eye, it’s open you see
    F is for F with asterisks three
    G’s for the gnat which gnaws on a gnu
    And H is for honest, would I lie to you?
    Honour your teacher and see you do well
    Then you’ll be certain you’ll know how to spell
    I’s not for Einstein or eiderdown either
    J is for Jasmin, no girl could be blither
    K’s for her knickers but not those who take ‘em
    And L’s for Llandudno if I’m not mistaken
    M’s for mnemonics with initials so neat
    N’s in conclusive but not in complete
    O is for oestrogen or so they do tell
    And P’s for phonetics which help us to spell
    Honour your teacher and see you do well
    Then you’ll be certain you’ll know how to spell
    Q’s for the quay where boats tie along
    R’s not for writing unless you’ve writ wrong
    S is for sea which laps on the shore
    And T’s for tsunami which does slightly more
    U’s for Uranus, it is I insist
    V’s for a void which we all try to miss
    W’s for why but also for who
    And X is for Xerox and xylophone too
    Honour your teacher and see you do well
    Then you’ll be certain you’ll know how to spell
    Y is for you but then so is E
    Z’s not for tsar , that’s C or it’s T
    You’ll notice I missed out the one before C
    Well for present purposes it’s an absolute B

    1. A is for Aisle, but so is I. Homonyms (Tzar, Czar, Saar) are the best.

  3. L is for Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch!

  4. The Barenaked Ladies did this!

  5. A is for R Are
    C is for Q Cue
    E is for I Eye, or U ewe
    S is for C See
    W is for Y Why
    Y is for U Yew

  6. From an old Nichols and May sketch:
    P, as in pneumonia.

  7. A few more

    A: awe
    B: bdellium
    H: hour
    Y: you