Sideband #30: Lonely Vowels

Over on an MLB blog (but it could have been anywhere) someone used the common abbreviation “ppl” for “people,” and it invoked in my head the voice of my high school English teacher ranting about spelling things out.

Mr. Wilson also did not care for the i.e. and e.g. abbreviations of the Latin id est and exempli gratia, respectively. He preferred the less pretentious that is and for example.

And let’s face it, many people misuse i.e. when they actually do mean for example.

The Latin abbreviation that always struck me as silly was et al. for et alii. Really? It’s better to type one period than two very small i‘s? Plus, you need context to disambiguate “et al.” (et alii) from “et al.” (et alibi). Probably this is a moot point, since few use the first and even fewer use the latter. Mr. Wilson was probably right; better to use and others or and elsewhere, respectively. Still, I really like the sound of et alii and et cetera.

But I was talking about “ppl.” I mean people using “ppl” instead of “people.”  Still, the detour that ended with et alii was useful in demonstrating the same problem:

The vowels are getting lonely!

Between Twitting and Texting, they just aren’t getting the use they used to, and the poor things are used to that use. In fact, my friend E used to be the most popular letter, let alone the most popular vowel.  You can’t even spell vowel without her.

Clearly E is a she. Consider how she appears in she, her and feminine. Her gal pal and BFF, A, of course, makes the difference between amigos and amigas and many other sexed words. But I is clearly male despite his invasion into the feminine. There’s his, him plus the rather obvious symbolism, which, oddly, doesn’t apply to O. (Understand, Amigo?)

And while we’re discussing vowel sex, the freaky yes-it-is, no-it’s-not Y is clearly ambiguously, perhaps dangerously, by-sexy-al.

And, no, I haven’t forgotten you. I mean U. That vowel is… unusual and unknown, and I’m content to allow a little mystery, especially after dealing with the constantly questioning and yapping Y. (Because I said so, that’s Y.)

If you want to have some fun, ask your friends if they can think of an English word that contains not one, not two, but three U‘s. After they scratch their heads a bit, you can hint that it is kind of an “unusual” word…

But I have wandered and wondered far from my point, which is to urge you to remember the lonely vowels.

They’ve given us so much, and all they ask is to be used. Just press their buttons once in a while and they’ll be happy.

In closing, speaking of three-letter abbreviations, I’m confused: TLA is a TLA, but FLA is also a TLA. That seems wrong somehow…


About Wyrd Smythe

The canonical fool on the hill watching the sunset and the rotation of the planet and thinking what he imagines are large thoughts. View all posts by Wyrd Smythe

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