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Publisher's Summary

From minding your Ps and Qs to wondering why X should mark the spot, Alphabetical is a book for everyone who loves words and language. Whether it's how letters are arranged on keyboards or Viking runes, textspeak or zip codes, this book will change the way you think about letters forever.

How on earth did we fix upon our 26 letters? What do they really mean? And how did we come to write them down in the first place?

Michael Rosen takes you on an unforgettable adventure through the history of the alphabet in 26 vivid chapters, fizzing with personal anecdotes and fascinating facts. Starting with the mysterious Phoenicians and how sounds first came to be written down, he races on to show how nonsense poems work, pins down the strange story of OK, traces our five lost letters and tackles the tyranny of spelling, among many, many other things.

His heroes of the alphabet range from Edward Lear to Phyllis Pearsall (the inventor of the A-Z), and from the two scribes of Beowulf to rappers. Each chapter takes on a different subject - whether it's codes, umlauts or the writing of dictionaries.

Rosen's enthusiasm for letters positively leaps off the page, whether it's the story of his life told through the typewriters he's owned or a chapter on jokes written in a string of gags and word games.

So if you ever wondered why Hawaiian only has a 13-letter alphabet, why X should mark the spot or became shorthand for Christmas or how exactly to write down the sound of a wild raspberry, read on....

©2013 Michael Rosen (P)2013 John Murray Press

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Enjoyable - and the PDF file is indeed available

"Alphabetical" is a pleasant read/listen, and, unlike many books about linguistics, seems well grounded in actual facts. Author Michael Rosen reads it marvelously in his British-but-not-posh accent. With this book you get an interesting and educational, if not very profound, look at alphabets and other phonetic/linguistic phenomena.

By the way, Rosen tells the reader to consult "the PDF" several times for written examples of alphabets, etc., which he refers to. This file can be found on the Audible.com page for this audiobook, at the end of the Publisher's Summary. Just click where it says "Download the accompanying reference guide."

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • Performance
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Not really "Linguistics" but a lot of fun

Linguistics is one of my favorite topics and I have listened to and read many on the topic. I thought this book was going to be a serious study of the history of the alphabet. I was wrong, but more than pleasantly surprised. Each letter of the alphabet is the starting off point for each chapter, but then Michael Rosen takes you on a wonderful trip of language and delight after the serious stuff is over. Michael reads the book in his delightful accent and just has a lot of fun. He is more a comedian and storyteller than an academic - more to his credit. Highly recommend for a fun trip down the alphabet.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Andy
  • Westport, CT, United States
  • 01-05-14

delightfully entertaining

A high energy narration combined with interesting factoids about provenance and usage of letters and words, made for a very entertaining listening experience.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • John S.
  • Seattle, WA United States
  • 03-20-14

PDF not essential

Twenty-six entries each starting with a brief overview of a letter of the alphabet (historical background, phonetics, etc.), used as a jumping off point for a digression of a specific linguistic (for lack of a better term) aspect. Some were (at least mildly) interesting, while others (often having to do with the author's own life) weren't. Overall, the book worked to pass time when I needed to fill short periods with background noise. Rosen's reading was okay as author-narrated books go, but I might've preferred to skim the print book I think if I had to go back and decide again.

One point that irritated me more as the book went on was the incredibly U. K. centric focus. I accept that Rosen is English himself, but as most folks for whom English is their primary language are NOT British, the short shrift he gives in passing to that fact seemed a bit ... patronizing - with a "zee"!

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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very enjoyable

story and history of the alphabet. where did all those letters come from? now you'll know.
great narrator.

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these are the letter in your alphbat

Where does Alphabetical rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

great book you and your kids should read it. it may make teaching them to read easier there a lot of history to our writing and the letter are a start. if you want to know why a b c is what they are try this book

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Where is PDF?

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Good book but narrator refers to PDF many times and it is not available for this book

What does Michael Rosen bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

Pleasant voice

Any additional comments?

Would be MUCH improved by a PDF!

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • CD
  • 12-08-13

An excellent read (Listen) The author really bring

If you could sum up Alphabetical in three words, what would they be?

Funny, Historical, Interesting

What was the most compelling aspect of this narrative?

The History and the evolution of our modern alphabet.

What about Michael Rosen’s performance did you like?

The authors enthusiasm for the subject. You can tell he really loves the history and lore of our modern alphabet and this comes across in his performance.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

When the Author recounted his memories of watching his mother at her typewriter.

Any additional comments?

I learned more than I thought I ever would about our modern alphabet and I had a great time along the way. I will listen to this book again...

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  • Stephen
  • 06-15-14

read beautifully, gorgeously interesting

michael rosen has a voice like warm honey that trickles gently into your ears bringing with it knowledge and entertainment

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 01-05-15

Informative fun.

I can't recommend this book enough. buy it now. a well read informative and fun book.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Teresa Cooper
  • 02-27-16

The history of our language?

This was not quite what I'd been expecting from Michael Rosen, but still readable/listenable. I'd definitely recommend you listen to the sample and decide for yourself.

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  • kevinsuperstar
  • 11-09-15

So good I've listened to it 3 times.

Rosen tells a facinating story every chapter. After I first read the book, I thought all histories of English would be be engaging and I tried reading a few others but haven't finished one of those yet. He makes language present and noticible in ways I never considered.

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  • J. Hester
  • 03-05-15

Clever

Who would have thought that a book about the alphabet would be so much fun and so incredibly interesting? Every letter really does tell a story!
I bought this after reading a couple of the reviews and am very glad I did, right up my street.
Clever, interesting and funny.