The Alphabet Song

So why is the alphabet in that order? Is it because of the song?

Take a deep breath… count to three.
Be gentle.

I don’t know Nick. The guy’s profile says he’s been a member since June. 'Tain’t no newbie. Might be time to call in the big guns.

Unless he’s just giddy over the fact that the MB works again. I could see that.

Livin’ on Tums, Vitamin E and Rogaine

Oh god, don’t let Satan see this one!

I always thought the song was created after the alphabet, as a mnemonic device.

But you open up an intriguing avenue of thought, Sammy, that deserves to be explored further. I am sure this will become one of the more enlightening threads of the SDMB.

Jacques Kilchoer
Workers of the world, unite! You have nothing to lose but your chains.

I remember the backwards alphabet song from Captain Kangaroo. I can still recite the alphabet backwards at top speed.

I remember the backwards alphabet song too. And hey, didja ever notice that the ABC song, “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,” and “Baa Baa Black Sheep” are all the same tune?

No I did not figure that one out myself. I had help, from my daughter. She’s two. Good ear on that kid.

Cristi, it is an ancient French melody, so old that I have variations on it written by Johann Sebastian Bach. :slight_smile:

As for the OP, there is a thread on this subject already… : :Ducking the incoming messages::

For the record, that’s a joke from Steven Wright, one of my favorite comedians.

Another of Wright’s jokes:

“My friends have a brand new baby. I’m writing down all the noises he makes so that when he gets older, I can ask him what he meant.”

But it’s just not the same without his delivery.

peas on earth

Okay, here’s the absolute, final, truthful story of WHY THE ALPHABET STARTS WITH ‘A’:

When the alphabeticists invented the alphabet manny, manny, years ago, there were only 4 letters - A,B,C,D - which coincided with the Greek letters Alpha, Beta, Congo, and Delta. Since the Greeks already had their letters arranged in this order, the alphabeticists decided to copy them and use the same order (this was before copyright laws). However, when writers began trying to spell words with these letters, they discovered that they needed a vowel to make the words look right, so the alphabeticists invented the ‘E’ and just tacked it on the end of the list they already had.

As writers progressed from simple words like ‘babe’ and ‘cad’ to words like ‘antidisestablishmentarianism’, the realized that 5 letters weren’t enough, and the alphabeticists invented new letters as needed, and just tacked them on the end of the current list. From this you may deduce that ‘Z’ was the last letter invented, and therefore isn’t used as much as the others.

The Alphabet Song used to be much shorter than the current version - at one time the lyrics consisted entirely of “A,B,C; A,B,C; now I know my ABCs.”

Tune in next time for our discussion on how Alphabet Soup led to the invention of the Scrabble game!

I have as much authority as the Pope; I just don’t have as many people who believe it! - George Carlin

BTW, this reminds me of a joke:

A first-grade class was trying to learn to recite the alphabet. Little Johnny approached the teacher and asked to visit the restroom, and was told he couldn’t go until he learned to recited the whole alphabet. After several more minutes of diligent study, Little Johnny again approached the teacher with a request to go to the restroom.

The teacher demanded that Little Johnny recited the alphabet as proof that he had indeed learned it before he could go. Little Johnny promptly recited “ABCDEFGHIJKLMNO QRSTUVWXYZ”. The teacher said “Very good, except for one thing - where’s the P?”.

To which Little Johnny replied “Running down my leg.”
Laugh, dammit, laugh! Its supposed to be funny!

I have as much authority as the Pope; I just don’t have as many people who believe it! - George Carlin

I wouldn’t want to get anything out of order in this thread. . .but. . .

J S Bach clearly stole that tune from Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.

Ray (astromusicologist)

Jeez, a small attempt at a little dry humor, and I may as well be in your BBQ pit. Makes me almost want to start using emoticons again. =P Of course I know the alphabet song didn’t lead to the order of the alphabet. I just want to know why the alphabet is arbitrarily learned, recited, and thought of in that order. Was the order that kids learned the alphabet in any different now than it was back when modern english was just being formed?

My favorite Steven Wright joke: “A cop pulls me over and says I was speeding. I asked him what the speed limit was and he said ‘55 miles an hour’. So I told him I was only going to be out for twenty minutes, and he lets me go.”


We’re not playing baseball here.

You don’t get three chances.

According to the Pope, a woman can be a saint, but not a priest.

As usual, wrong, Ray.

The Star, a poem by Jane Taylor, was published first by her sister in either 1805 in a collection called Original Poems for Infant Minds or in 1806 in a collection called Rhymes for the Nursery (there seems to be a lack of agreement here - several sites attribute it to the former, others attribute it to the latter). Jane Taylor was born September 26, 1783.

The tune obviously pre-dates the poem.

The A B C’s were put into the popular order so they’d be in alphabetical order, of course. It’s the easiest way to file stuff, and when they decided to order the alphabet, they figured it was the easiest way to arrange the letters.

I have it on good authority that the alphabetical order was originated by a dyslexic taxi driver.

Chaim Mattis Keller

“Sherlock Holmes once said that once you have eliminated the
impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be
the answer. I, however, do not like to eliminate the impossible.
The impossible often has a kind of integrity to it that the merely improbable lacks.”
– Douglas Adams’s Dirk Gently, Holistic Detective

Well, as long as I have both feet in my mouth, I may as well go for another appendage…I take it that either: (1) this is one of those arcane questions that nobody really knows and/or cares about, or (2) I’ve flubbed two attempts at asking the question coherently. So maybe the third time will be the charm, and if it isn’t, I’ll stop torturing everybody with this inanity. OK?

Before things needed to be filed, and before there was much order to language, the alphabet for the English language evolved. What cause the alphabet to be generally known in the particular order it is in? Why wasn’t it known in another order, say according to shape of the letters or according to usage in popular words of the time? Is there some rhyme (no pun intended) or reason to how it evolved to being recognized as ABCDEFG and not HRDTJYX, for example? And if so, what is the reason? And finally, when will Cecil Adams come to my door and put me out of my misery with a sledgehammer?

-Sam, aka the “problem” child.

Sam, you asked the question ok. The trouble with it is that the answer has already and recently been debated ad nauseum in a thread in this forum. Look for postings within the last month about a topic having to do with the alphabet…

Ok, so here’s the challenge: present an explanation that is believable and hides the inherent circular logic required to create a plausible solution.

The letters of the alphabet were originally in no order whatsoever. When lists of items were invented (discovered?), the letters were placed into a list and their natural order is what we see today. For purposes of sorting, this alphabetical order was used as a convenience. Schoolchildren were taught to memorize the letters in a particular order so they could utilize alphabetical order efficiently, a handy skill later in life.

Hey, aren’t you supposed to be at work?