The Best Letter of the Alphabet
Updated: Nov 9
Written by Daniel T. Dodaro
Let me begin by saying that the best letter is not A. A seems like an obvious choice, I know, but hear me out.
Why does A lose? Well, first, anyone whose last name starts with an A knows that they will likely be called first in any selection, unpleasant or otherwise.
Let’s use school as a lens to explore this problem through.
Yes, some teachers will go against common practice by picking on students from Z backwards or choosing them according to some other arbitrary selection process. However, in my experience, those students christened with an A are doomed to be ceremonial guinea pigs more often than other students. C'est la vie.
Well, you might say, what about students who want to go first? Proactive students are rarities, my friends. Being chosen to go second or third—now, that’s the sweet spot. That’s where the magic happens. You have just enough time to adjust your presentation by reviewing the person who went prior to you. You also get the project out of the way before the rest of the class.
And so, A loses.
Now, let’s look at some other popular choices.
The vowels. The notorious A, E, I, O, U. A gang of hooligans, I dare say. They give words their oomph. Words would be lifeless zombies without them, which logically makes vowels the heartbeat of language. But let’s stop there before you buy too much into vowel propaganda. Because let’s not forget that vowels are arrogant. And arrogance is an especially egregious sin for an intangible, inanimate, linguistic construct.
Again, don’t get me wrong. Nothing hits quite like an E. Musically. Phonically. Spiritually even (Maybe? I just made that one up.) But let’s get real. Out of principal, we can’t let vowels win. They are too highbrow for us free-spirited folk, and they are certainly not the underdogs of the dialectal world.
I apologize for my anti-vowel rant. Moving on before it gets too heated…
M seems like an equitable choice, but M is incomplete without its scion, N. M is the Plato to N’s Aristotle. M is the burger to N’s cheeseburger. N achieves what M accomplishes with one less line. And yet we rely on M. We rely on that tiny double-arch to remind us that there is always an N on the horizon. So, even though M and N are a formidable duo (watch out for my upcoming article: best letter duos (spoiler: sadly, M and N are still beaten out by C and H)), they are both incomplete without the other.
F is nice. It’s sharp. It’s sleek. It has its own Finesse and Feng shui. But it’s overused. Perhaps even abused. Let’s skip it. It gets bronze. Third place. Not bad F. Not bad.
S is the runner-up here, earning itself a darling silver medal. Why did S do so well in the Letter Olympics? Because S makes words plural. That’s quite literally a big deal. What a powerful ability it is to be able to turn one into many.
For such a small squiggle in the vast universe of more complex shapes and constructs, S is a force to be reckoned with. Why doesn’t S get gold then, being as overpowered as it is? Because where S giveth, S also taketh away. Yes, one good thing becomes many good things, but, simultaneously, one bad thing can become many bad things. Not so great now, eh? And why should I trust S to multiply my joys more than my sorrows? What am I…an optimist? Don’t forget that S begins the word, Snake. And although I believe that snakes get a worse rap than they deserve (remember, they are associated with rebirth just as much as they are associated with the devil), snakes are generally considered untrustworthy (no hard feelings, snakes). So, if S follows the lead of snakes, its multiplication principal isn’t always a good thing.
So, what earns the Gold? What letter is humble yet also chic? What letter is adventurous? Sexy, even? What letter is chill in a social setting but serious when it’s time to roll up one’s sleeves and get the job done? X.
Yes, X—just think about it. A teacher may decide to start from the back of the alphabet when calling on someone. The Z last names bear that burden. And the reverse is not so great either: if A goes first, then Z goes last. No one wants to go dead last; it might even be worse than going first. So, in comes X. Not first. Not last. Three from the back. Inconspicuous. Excellent.
Also, Z is just an annoying letter. Zebra? Really? What a grating word. Any cool word that wants to make a Z sound starts with an X anyway. Xylophone, people? Also, very, very few names start with an X (don’t ask me for data on that; my evidence is anecdotal). But the most popular name that does start with an X is smooth and refined: Xavier. Imagine being named Xavier…and not just getting named Xavier because your parents are overcompensating? You better live up to that name, Xavier, damn you! Do it for the rest of us. It’s your destiny.
What else makes X the best?
Artistically, X is easy to draw. It might be the easiest letter to draw other than O or lowercase I. Give a child a crayon, and they’ll show you. X is also symmetrical. A few letters are, but if you cut X in half, you get two Vs, and V is a cool letter too.
Mathematically and scientifically, it is also the most commonly used variable (“X = …”). That means it could be worth…anything. Any number. Any letter. Any value. In a meta sense, X can be every other letter of the alphabet an infinite number of times. Yes, other letters are used as variables too, but not as religiously. They are wannabes. Liars.
And, of course, most importantly, X marks the spot.
Thus, X wins the Letter Olympics. I feel bad for all the other letters. They didn’t even stand a chance.
(1) X wins Gold
(2) S wins Silver
(3) F wins Bronze
This article was written by Daniel T. Dodaro, the author of Death, the Gardener.
All Stories begin and end with a question. It is up to each and every one of us to discover what that question is.