November 2, 2006

Letter, I Hardly Met Her

by Nick Montfort · , 5:41 pm

At Autostart I was given a wonderful gift, Craig Conley’s One Letter Words: A Dictionary. This is one of several strange and unusual dictionaries by Conley. I read about the online genesis of the book and was hoping to share the Web version with everyone here. Unfortunately, the free Web edition of the one-letter lexicon had to sacrifice itself for the good of its HarperCollinsPublished cousin, in a touching and grisly scene; it – alas – is now only available via the Internet Archive.

The dictionary is an eclectic one, but not as comprhensive and learned as one might like. Our langauge poet guests at Autostart would be startled to learn that A is identified as a 1965 short film by Jan Lenica but not as Louis Zukofsky’s long poem, published in complete form in 1978. Fortunately, Conley’s book isn’t the last word on letters. Collaborative list-makers online have continued to work in literal lexicography. The Wikipedia article on one-letter English words is a snoozer, but there’s interesting stuff to be found in the articles for A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, M, N, O, P, Q, R, S, T, U, V, W, X, Y, and Z. I feel that I must note that Wikipedia doesn’t omit Zukofsky’s masterwork – and no, I didn’t rush to add it before writing this. As is practically always the case on the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit, the discussion pages (e.g, Talk:A) are more interesting than the articles themselves. Here was my favorite bit from the first one:

I started here on “A” hoping there was a next page button so I could (eventually) read through the entire Wikipedia. Any way of getting that functionality?

2 Responses to “Letter, I Hardly Met Her”


  1. Chris Says:

    Of course, Zuk’s books is not A but “A”. I have no idea if that counts as one-letter or not.

    I had forgotten about the one-letter-word dictionary website! Oh I’ll have to score myself a copy of it.

  2. another helping « required field Says:

    [...] s the kind of film Sigmund Freud would enjoy.” hmm. I like Mely’s take better. one-letter dictionaries tips for improving one’s handwriting Indiana Jo [...]

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