Alphabetical: How Every Letter Tells a Story

Alphabetical: How Every Letter Tells a Story

Hardback John Murray

By (author) Michael Rosen

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  • Publisher: John Murray Publishers Ltd
  • Format: Hardback | 336 pages
  • Dimensions: 144mm x 220mm x 42mm | 560g
  • Publication date: 7 November 2013
  • Publication City/Country: London
  • ISBN 10: 1848548869
  • ISBN 13: 9781848548862
  • Illustrations note: 26 special letters
  • Sales rank: 20,429

Product description

From minding your Ps and Qs to wondering why X should mark the spot, Alphabetical is a book for everyone who loves words and language. Whether it's how letters are arranged on keyboards or Viking runes, textspeak or zip codes, this book will change the way you think about letters for ever. 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 seven 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. So if you ever wondered why Hawaiian only has a thirteen-letter alphabet, why X should mark the spot or became shorthand for Christmas or how exactly to write down the sound of a wild raspberry, read on ...

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Author information

Michael Rosen was born in 1946 in North London and read English at Oxford. He is a former Children's Laureate and is the bestselling author of We're Going on a Bear Hunt, which won the Smarties Best Book of the Year Award, and many other books. He presents Word of Mouth on BBC Radio 4. This is the book he has always wanted to write.

Review quote

[Michael Rosen's] beguiling journey through the alphabet will entrance anyone interested in the quirks of language and its history ... Rosen has written a charming and thought-provoking book about what written language represents, how we use it, and the joys and mysteries therein. His humor and obvious love for his subject are winning elements Publishers Weekly This is a fascinating read and great gift for Christmas Bookseller Enjoyable history of the alphabet The Times Substantial and engaging Guardian Forget party crackers - when you settle down to the turkey and trimmings this year simply make sure you have this book to hand. There's even a chapter devoted to family friendly alphabet games: perfect for playing after the Queen's been on. That letters can and should be fun, not just functional, is one of the main messages of this book Sunday Telegraph The perfect book for anyone who relishes the intricacies of language and letters ... [Rosen] reveals a gift for seamlessly meshing hard information, personal anecdote, jokes and puzzles with educational, cultural and linguistic questions and wry, pointed, observations ... There are delights in this book for all ages Australian [Michael Rosen] gives each letter a neat CV ... enjoyable The Times