A is for Agent
The letter A was set from the first day they named the alphabet.
"We were thinking of calling it The Letters," explained the
inventors. "Or maybe The Society of Pictures That Stand For Sounds."
"Listen," replied the letter A's agent. "You guys are great inventors,
no doubt about it, but you don't understand marketing. If you really
want this to catch on, you're going to have to give your target market
something to identify with. Why do you think hieroglyphics have been so big
for so long? Because they have, you'll excuse the term, character. Some
people see themselves as a falcon, some see themselves as three stalks
of wheat. My wife's really into that eye with the curlicue on it. You
could put a curlicue eye on the cheapest, ugliest urn you ever saw, she'll
buy it and have it up on our mantel before you can say 'Imhotep.' That's
The agent sat back and took a long drag on his cigarette, looking
around at the crestfallen faces of the inventors before saying out loud
what each of them were thinking.
"And that," said the agent. "Is what your so-called Society of
Pictures Blah Blah lacks. Take this 'O' character, for instance.
I don't know if you've noticed, boys, but that's what most people
call a circle. Who identifies with a circle? I'll tell you: assholes,
One or two of the inventors laughed nervously, unsure if that was
intended as a joke.
The agent looked out the window, thoughtful, as if he were searching
the landscape for a solution to the problems of the hapless
inventors. He took another drag and turned back to them.
"I think I can help you. My client, Alpha, you may remember
some of his earlier work. A while back he did a
stint in Phoenicia as an ox head. Let me tell you, people loved that
ox head. Everywhere you went it was ox head this, ox head that. They
had National Ox Head Day for a while, everyone went out and got drunk,
it was that big. I think my client can do the same for you guys, but
not without your help."
The agent sat back and waited. He wanted to make them ask. Things
always went smoother when you made them ask. The inventors looked
at each other uneasily. They looked at him. The agent did not smile.
"What sort of help?" asked one of the inventors.
"Nothing big, nothing big," the agent assured him. "We just need
to play Alpha up a little, let people know that he's going to be
part of their lives, let them know that this is a form of
inscribed communication they can really get along with. And that starts
with the name."
The inventors looked at him expectantly.
The agent raised his arms expansively, inclusively, welcomingly.
"The Alpha Bunch," he said.
Once the news of the name change got out, the floodgates were opened.
The agents of all the other letters inundated the inventors with demands
for contract re-writes, which the inventors in turn passed on to Alpha's agent,
trusting his vision. Certain letters got concessions: V got to bring
his less-successful brother W on board, Z bargained for a spot at the end
figuring that to be the second-highest profile spot. The name
went through several more changes, including "Alpha and the All-Stars"
and "The Alpha-Beta Bunch" before settling on "The Alphabet."
All this bargaining played well in the industry press, and the ensuing
word-of-mouth resulted in the biggest opening for a method of symbolic
writing ever. Alpha's agent made himself and his client very rich signing
endorsement and merchandising contracts before selling out his percentage to
concentrate on another client of his, a young wannabe digit with stars
in his eyes going by the name of "Zero."