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Just 26 Letters

Posted in: Blog by admin on September 23, 2010

May 15, 2010

“Mommy, how many letters are there in the world,” my six-year-old daughter asked me.

“There are 26 letters in the English alphabet,” I answered.

Danielle’s big blue eyes grew larger. “Only 26 letters?!! But, Mommy, how many words are there? How can that be that there are only 26 letters?” She giggled with awe.

Her questions were intoxicating, not only because they were interesting, but because they were full of such excitement and wonder.

We continued to discuss the immeasurable amount of words as she also compared the number of letters to the number of actual numbers. She pointed out how numbers are infinite, so how, she wondered, can there just be 26 letters. I took a deep breath. Rather than just emitting a quick answer, I let these questions swarm and fester and grow.

As I thought about my Kindergartner’s uncertainties, I realized this is one of those pure, beautiful moments in life. One of those opportunities in which we adults can still learn and challenge our thoughts and question the familiarity of our ideas. And, my subsequent reflections were all initiated by Danielle’s simple, yet complex, question. Isn’t that the beauty of innocent minds? The way they think so freely. So creatively. So courageously.

As an adult capable of more abstract thoughts, I let my mind venture on a creative journey. It is amazing to think of the thousands of words that exist in the English language … all comprised of a various amount of just 26 letters. And words are just words. But, their power is one of the most overwhelming concepts to absorb. Think about this: It is a word that can let a man know that his beloved will accept his proposal. It is a word that is spoken that tells another to exit from the room, from someone’s life. It is a word that starts a war. A word. Series of words.



“Good bye.”



“I’m sorry.”

Twenty six powerful letters. Jumble them, move them, rearrange them. Pick three of them. Say, “I love you.” Choose a different set of words, this time four, “I am leaving you.” Change your life. Change your destiny. Change the world. Take a sharp turn on your path. Each step is taken with a word. And they all come from a mere 26 letters.

What a fascinating concept.

There was a wonderful, eclectic little book I once read called “Ella Minnow Pea.” It was about an imaginary island, in which the residents all cared passionately about language. One day, a monument with letters on it lost the letter “z.” The city’s council decided this was a sign and that the letter “z” must be immediately struck from their language. People were punished severely if they used the said letter while writing or speaking. Slowly, more and more letters were abolished.

The book wasn’t about letters though, it was about authoritarianism. But, the concept of our alphabet therein made me realize how much we have come to rely on each and every letter. Of course, being one who believes that we are on this earth to love and be loved, I immediately imagined a world wherein we weren’t allowed to use the letter “l” — how would I bestow my favorite phrase on my loved ones?

I love books that get our minds rolling and spinning and playing.

I love the word “love” and am grateful that we have the four letters therein to use freely.

And, I love my sweet Danielle and the fact that she brought her wonderment and awe to me and let it seep into my my thoughts … into my world.

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