friday feast: no quibbles with q

#18 in on ongoing series of posts celebrating the alphabet.

photo by tenebrismo.

I am quite quazy about Q.

Quick and quiet, quacking or quaking, Q’s a letter of quintessential quality.

Unlike O, who sometimes doesn’t know which end is up, Q sits next to me on the couch and stays put. I like a letter who’s quaint, a little quirky, sometimes questioning, always forever faithful to U.

photos by jazzejunqueinc and crissygarcia333.

You know how Ramona Quimby signs her name, drawing Q like a little cat? Ever since I saw that purr-fect Q, I’ve been a goner for Q’s tail; it’s got to be the coolest fashion accessory in the alphabet!

Okay. Right now, say “q.” See how it makes you purse your lips just so, like you’re ready for a kiss? ☺ I love that!

Now, look at your keyboard. Q occupies the farthest left position there (good politics, eh?). See how the word, “Qwerty” is spelled out in the second row? After decades of typing, I only recently learned what QWERTY is, and now it’s my favorite Q word.

   Sholes Qwerty Keyboard Layout (1878)

Qwerty is the most widely used keyboard layout on English language typewriters and computers, patented in the 1870’s by editor and printer, Christopher Sholes. Seems he spent years trying to find a layout that would prevent typebar clashes and jams. That meant studying the most common letter combinations in words, and arranging the keys so the typist would have to stretch and/or alternate hands to type them! That’s why “q” is left hand, “u” is right hand.

First commercially successful typewriter (Sholes and Glidden by Remington, 1874),
(photo from sftrajan’s photostream).

Another reason to love Q? It’s withstood much malignment over the years. Like X and Z, it’s not called upon quite as often as everyone else to form words. Moreover, Q’s been called redundant (bite your tongue, Quintilian!) — C and K (Q’s staunch rivals) can easily stand in for Q without a fuss (quail = kwail, liquor = licor). Ben Jonson said things were just fine with Old English until the French (Norman Conquest), made Q part of the game: “The English Saxons knew not this halting Q, with her waiting woman ‘u’ after her.”

photo by Afid wa Istafid.

As for me, a firm believer in minding her Ps and Qs, I think life would be quite bland without the exotic, specialized je ne sais quoi Q brings to Suzy Q, Bar-B-Q, Q & A, Q-Tips, and that rapturous word, “quiver.” *fans self* And of course, there’s this exquisite poem by Sharon Olds. True to form, Q knows how to really bring it.


by Sharon Olds

photos by lowtech511 and sky_mitch.

Q belonged to Q.&.A.,
to questions, and to foursomes, and fractions,
it belonged to the Queen, to Quakers, to quintets —
within its compound in the dictionary dwelt
the quill pig, and quince beetle,
and quetzal, and quail. Quailing was part of Q’s
quiddity — the Q quaked
and quivered, it quarrelled and quashed. No one was
quite sure where it had come from, but it had
travelled with the K, they were the two voiceless
velar Semitic consonants, they went
back to the desert, to caph and koph.
And K has done a lot better —
29 pages in Webster’s Third
to Q’s 13. And though Q has much
to be proud of, from Q.& I. detector
through quinoa, sometimes these days the letter
looks like what medical students called the
Q face — its tongue lolling out.
And sometimes when you pass a folded
newspaper you can hear from within it
a keening, from all the Q’s who are being
set in type, warboarded,
made to tell and tell of the quick and the
Iraq dead.

~ from The New Yorker (August 10, 2009).

When I first read the poem, the ending stunned me. Everything was kind of playful until Q’s final appearance, at the end of a word. Talk about surprise and impact.

What’s your favorite Q word? (One Q word I don’t like = query.)

Enjoy the rest of the poems being shared around the blogosphere by checking in with Kelly Herold at Big A little a.

Easy ham and broccoli quiche recipe here (

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥


 When Remington mechanics finalized the qwerty layout before manufacturing the first commercially successful TYPE WRITER, they moved the R so that the word “typewriter” could be typed solely from the top row of letters (to impress customers).

The first Remington typewriters were mounted on sewing tables and embellished like sewing machines to appeal to women. Instead of a lever, one used the treadle to return the carriage. Read more at the Virtual Typewriter Museum.


 Qwerty favors lefties; thousands of words can be typed using only the left hand vs. only about 200 using the right.


 Certified authentic alphabetica. Handmade just for you with love and quivering loins quiche. 

Copyright © 2009 Jama Rattigan of jama rattigan’s alphabet soup. All rights reserved.

34 thoughts on “friday feast: no quibbles with q

  1. All hail the Queen of Alphabetica

    Top Quality post, as always….Your creativity never Quits!

    (Top to bottom, I couldn’t stop smiling…until I reached the end of “Q,” the poem, that is. Wow–talk about high impact. But of course, we’ve come to expect that of Q.)


  2. At first I thought you said, “laundry.” 😀

    Could be because at this very moment my quandry is laundry. My washer kind of died and the pile of dirty clothes has earned its own zip code. I need to find a river and a lot of rocks.


  3. I do love the “q” in pique (it likes to be smack dab in the middle of things).

    Like your userpic. We don’t have any pumpkins yet. We’re afraid to put them out because of the ravenous squirrels and chipmunks.:(


  4. We had three small pumpkins grow from a self-seeded plant in our garden this year; alas, all three rotted away on our front porch. We should probably go pick out a pumpkin for carving soon – but, like you, we’ll probably have to keep in inside for a few days so they don’t get gnawed on. It’s not *too* bad, but there is that risk.

    This was my Harry Potter pumpkin, which I carved a few years ago. 😀


  5. Elaine M.

    That surely is one surprise ending. Olds certainly knows how to write a poem with a punch at the end. Great selection!

    I’m not sure what my favorite “Q” word is.


  6. Great poem! And I love the letter Q also. It’s great not only at the beginning of a word, but in the middle:



  7. Q is my favorite letter. My one quibble with Hello Kitty What Will I Be A to Z? is that the profession for Q is the only one in the alphabet of occupations that a person can’t realistically aspire to become: queen. Queen is a great word, but after L for Librarian (yay!) I was expecting more. “Quilter” would have been more apt.

    That poem really sucker-punched me. Wow.


  8. Quite cute!

    I can’t believe I didn’t find this until “Q” came along. I’ll be back. Can’t wait for “X”. An editor once told me that if I ever attempted an alphabet book, to figure out the “X” first, because that’s usually the stumper.

    Thanks for this Qute blog, Jama!


  9. Well, I’m too late to have an original favorite Q word — the first one I thought of was QUALITY, for another amazing alphabetica post, and that was the first one out of the gate! I love all the Qs you and Sharon Olds included, and the ones suggested by the commenters, especially Writer Jenn’s.

    No, wait! I’ve got one! Not only was your post of highest Quality, it was Jama-rifiQue!!!

    (Thanks for coming by early yesterday morning before I knew where the round up was and got my post linked in!)


  10. You’ve got a good point — unless one aspires to acting, and is lucky enough to get the right part. With so many girls aspiring to be “princesses,” a queen might not be that unrealistic :). Like you, though, I’d love to see quilter in the list.


  11. Favored Q

    Wonderfully interesting article, Jama! Favorite Q — has to be Quetzal! Ohhh … what a stunningly beautiful bird!


  12. Sorry to hear of your previous annoyance with Q! Was it the constant questioning or its querulous nature?

    No, I haven’t succumbed to the typewriter collecting, yet . . . but I do have an old German made manual typewriter around here somewhere. 🙂


  13. I love that opening photo.

    This whole post makes me think of They Might Be Giants’ “QU” song.



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