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Alphabetical: How Every Letter Tells a Story

by Michael Rosen

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2045112,075 (3.48)5
"How on Earth did we fix upon our twenty-six letters, what do they really mean, and how did we come to write them down in the first place? Michael Rosen takes you on an unforgettable adventure through the history of the alphabet in twenty-six vivid chapters, fizzing with personal anecdotes and fascinating facts. Starting with the mysterious Phoenicians and how sounds first came to be written down, he races on to show how nonsense poems work, pins down the strange story of OK, traces our five lost letters and tackles the tyranny of spelling, among many many other things. His heroes of the alphabet range from Edward Lear to Phyllis Pearsall (the inventor of the A-Z), and from the two scribes of Beowulf to rappers. Each chapter takes on a different subject - whether it's codes, umlauts or the writing of dictionaries. Rosen's enthusiasm for letters positively leaps off the page, whether it's the story of his life told through the typewriters he's owned or a chapter on jokes written in a string of gags and word games. This is the book for anyone who's ever wondered why Hawaiian only has a thirteen-letter alphabet or how exactly to write down the sound of a wild raspberry"--… (more)
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Showing 5 of 5
nonfiction; history of the alphabet. I requested this one from the library because I was curious to see what Michael Rosen (the children's book author/illustrator) spends his spare time pondering. It turned out to be waaaay more academic than I cared to get into, but still kind of interesting to know that there was this whole layer of an author that I didn't know anything about. ( )
  reader1009 | Jul 3, 2021 |
This is a story about letters; which make words; which make stories.

Split into 26 chapters, Rosen delves into the history of each letter, from their very earliest history and origins, the way that is should be pronounced, or the sounds that it makes in certain words, including all the oddities. Following this introduction to each letter, he then has an essay on a subject connected with that letter. Some time these are closely connected, for example A is about the alphabet, and other times they are not very closely linked, L is on LSD.

That said, it is full of fascinating facts, anecdotes and stories about these 26 strange symbols that we use data in and day out when talking, writing and reading. Even thought it is 400 pages long it really is quick to read, and really enjoyable. There are two things that I felt that could have improved it, one would be to show the graphical evolution of each of the letters, and also more on letters that have vanished from our current alphabet like æ. Was an interesting book on the building books of our language.

I don't normally include an image with my reviews, but I though that this one was suitable and mildly amusing:




( )
  PDCRead | Apr 6, 2020 |
I checked this book out of the library, not realizing I owned a Kindle version. This books covers how each letter of the Latin alphabet came into the existence, differentiating between upper and lower case. Latin did not have a lower case, so scribes started inventing them around 500 AD. How the letter itself is presented along with the various pronunciations of the letter in various words. Following the letter information, Michale Rosen explores a variety os subjects, one for each letter. Alphabet, Battledore, Ciphers, Disappeared letters, e. e. cummings, Fonts, Greek, H-Aspiration, Improvisation, Jokes, Korean, LSD, Music and memory, Nonsense, OK, Pitman, QWERTY, Rhyme, Signs and sign systems, Txtspk, Umlauts, Vikings, Webster, X marks the spot, Yellow, Zipcodes. There is an added section on Oulipo diversions. ( )
  vpfluke | Sep 24, 2019 |
This is a very good book about the history of language, the alphabet, and how we read. At times it does get a little off topic but in the end it is a very fun read.Rosen talks about everything from where the letters come from originally to who put in the letter in Minuscule. Rosen gives personal stories about learning and dealing with language to common stories that everyone learns as we learn about words and their meanings. Overall this is an interesting book but at times Rosen gets a little detailed that has nothing to do with the overall narrative. He gives the reader a interesting and solid overview of the alphabet and how it came to be the way it is now.

I give this book a Four out of Five stars.
  lrainey | May 4, 2016 |
Showing 5 of 5
So let “Alphabetical” inspire you to improvise, innovate and disrupt with letters. We’re always beta-testing the alphabet, anyway. Rosen, for one, wants to add a letter for the sound at the beginning of words such as “about” and “America” (known linguistically as the schwa), and seems confident it’ll happen. And when you find yourself staring far too long at the shape of an F or comparing where you press your tongue to pronounce L vs. D, you’ll know you’ve opened an unusual book. After reading it, it’s hard to look at a keyboard, a street sign or even your handwriting in quite the same way.
added by lorax | editWashington Post, Carlos Lozada (Feb 12, 2015)
 
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"How on Earth did we fix upon our twenty-six letters, what do they really mean, and how did we come to write them down in the first place? Michael Rosen takes you on an unforgettable adventure through the history of the alphabet in twenty-six vivid chapters, fizzing with personal anecdotes and fascinating facts. Starting with the mysterious Phoenicians and how sounds first came to be written down, he races on to show how nonsense poems work, pins down the strange story of OK, traces our five lost letters and tackles the tyranny of spelling, among many many other things. His heroes of the alphabet range from Edward Lear to Phyllis Pearsall (the inventor of the A-Z), and from the two scribes of Beowulf to rappers. Each chapter takes on a different subject - whether it's codes, umlauts or the writing of dictionaries. Rosen's enthusiasm for letters positively leaps off the page, whether it's the story of his life told through the typewriters he's owned or a chapter on jokes written in a string of gags and word games. This is the book for anyone who's ever wondered why Hawaiian only has a thirteen-letter alphabet or how exactly to write down the sound of a wild raspberry"--

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