Unraveling the Mystery of the Alphabet from A to Z
By David Sacks
(Broadway Books, Hardcover, 9780767911726, 416pp.)
Publication Date: August 19, 2003
List Price: $24.95*
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Letters are tangible language. Joining together in endless combinations to actually show speech, letters convey our messages and tell our stories. While we encounter these tiny shapes hundreds of times a day, we take for granted the long, fascinating history behind one of the most fundamental of human inventions -- the alphabet.
The heart of the book is the 26 fact-filled “biographies” of letters A through Z, each one identifying the letter’s particular significance for modern readers, tracing its development from ancient forms, and discussing its noteworthy role in literature and other media. We learn, for example, why the letter X has a sinister and sexual aura, how B came to signify second best, why the word “mother” in many languages starts with M, and what is the story of O.
Packed with information and lavishly illustrated, Language Visible is not only accessible and entertaining, but essential to the appreciation of our own language.
David Sacks is author of the Encyclopedia of the Ancient Greek World. His articles mainly on cultural topics have appeared in the New York Times Book Review, the Wall Street Journal and dozens of magazines. He wrote a 26-part series for the Ottawa Citizen on the letters of the alphabet that was received enthusiastically by readers and which he has expanded and developed into Language Visible. Raised in New Jersey, he now lives in Ottawa, Ontario.