Somehow, I’ve managed to get a sliver imbedded in the tip of my left middle finger. It’s in deep enough that it will require tweezers to properly extract, but I’m on deadline enough to refuse tweezing until I’ve filed this piece. What this amounts to is a certain amount of wincing pain every time I type the letters E, R, S, T, which also happens to spell the sound I make when I type them. ERST!
It’s all about letter frequency. We can thank Samuel Morse, inventor of Morse Code, for running the numbers on these particular letters. He wanted to ascribe the simplest code he could to the most frequently used letters, which he ascertained by visiting the local printer and counting the amount of each letter kept in the typeset drawers. This approach was not scientific so much as ingeniously lazy. What else should we expect from the putative godfather of texting, our most elegantly evasive means of maintaining social correspondence? Just think, we went from tapping telegraph messages with our forefingers to texting with our thumbs in, like, only six generations. There seems to be some evolutionary mojo behind our journey from fingers to opposable thumbs, not to mention the move from digits to digital, though our language seems to have devolved in the process. LOL.
For the definitive word on letter frequency, I turned to Oxford Dictionaries, “The World’s Most Trusted Dictionaries,” according to their site, which is ironic to read ONLINE, given the all-digital destiny of its shelfmate, the Encyclopedia Brittanica whose own site is tagged with the terse, “Facts Matter,” as if in rebuttal to Wikipedia’s, “the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit.” Accordingly, the most frequently used letters in English are, in order of usage, E, A, R, I, O, T.
You can file that under, “How to Kill a Cocktail Party Conversation.” And here’s your mnemonic: The string of letters looks a bit like “Ear Riot.” Sounds like an indie record label from the ’90s. Remember records, or labels, or the ’90s? Yeah, that decade was like the opposite of, say, Woodstock, in so many ways – if you can remember it, you were there and you’re “a loser, baby, so why don’t you kill me?” Or at least torture me with small bits of wood lodged in my fingertips.
One would think my 2.5-year-old would have cornered the market on slivers. Instead, he and most of his preschool is working the viral conjunctivitis angle. I’m praying I don’t catch it before my next photoshoot. Photoshop may help with red-eye but pink eye? Not so much. Besides, I’ve got enough photos of myself with bloodshot eyes. Well, they’re really mug shots but my dear old mum can’t tell the difference and shows them off, explaining, “He’s the writer.” If I ever get my hands on an FBI Most Wanted poster, I’ll tell her it’s my brother, “He’s the musician.” He was signed to Ear Riot Records in the ’90s, you know.
It wasn’t until this very moment that I recalled that I knew a woman who had gone head-first through the windshield of her car. She recovered but for years afterward fine slivers of glass would occasionally push out of her pores. ERST! Clearly, my thorn-in-paw situation is nothing compared to a face full of safety glass. I suppose I should stop complaining, or at the very least stop writing, get a pair of tweezers and find a better use for my middle finger.
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Daedalus Howell points out that ERST and EARIOT together are an anagram of ROTE SATIRE at DHowell.com.