In the Key of W

THE first straw was my relegation to a back seat, on a well-remembered autumn school-day, simply and solely because my name began with W. The last straw was the defeat of an excellent local candidate in the November election, simply and solely because his name, beginning with W, stood last upon the ballot. I voted for him. I always vote for anyone whose name begins with W — if for no other reason, just to offset the unintelligent vote of some poor boob who votes for the A’s and B’s just because their names come first.

And in between those straws there’s a whole hayrickful.

Now, therefore, I raise my voice, on behalf of a long-suffering multitude of W’s, to protest the disadvantages of living at the end of the alphabet.

We are educated in back rows. We cannot see the writing on the blackboards; we cannot hear, as others can, the precious words of the teacher. We answer ‘yes’ when we should have answered ‘no,’ and we answer ‘no’ when someone else should have answered ‘yes.’ Nay more, we are led into permanent and insidious temptation, for distance ever lendeth opportunity.

We are always at the end of lists. Sometimes, indeed, the lists stop before they reach us. What avails it to have dinner-danced with the Prince of Wales (God save his royal initial!) if the morning paper, after listing among the guests, —


Underhill, Theodore
UpDyke, Mr. and Mrs. Carleton DeQ. (née Bixby)


Vaughan, the Misses Violet and Vyvyan,

suddenly draws a line and goes on to inform the world that Aaron Bros, have just received a special importation of bengalines and chiffon crepés?

Even if the list includes us, who reads it through? Interest may be high at the start — but after all the Bateses and the Clarks, and the Gateses and the Parks, the keenest mind, faltering, may turn and flee before the massed S’s.

It’s a serious matter financially. For who, seeking by means of a classified telephone-directory the services of an ambulance or an architect or a dentist or a derrick or a naprapath or a numismatist or a pawnbroker or a plumber, does not make his selection from the top of the list? What chance, I ask you, has a Waffle, or a Wozniak?

The spiritual indignities we endure! Take the ordinary grading-system. It equates A with excellence, B with good work, C with mediocrity, and so on down to F for failure. What has A done that it should have such glory? Did you ever stop to think, if F stands for Failure, what W must stand for?

If ever I have the making of a grading-system, mine shall read: —

W = Well done

S = Satisfactory

B = Barely passed

A = Absolutely hopeless

It is precisely we, the W’s, who bear the brunt of this desperate finality. We are the climax, the real ultimate: those who come after are but few and negligible. The X’s are unknown quantities; the Y’s are chiefly Young things; the Z’s merge naturally into &c’s.

Come then, ye Walkers and Warrens, ye Weavers and Websters, ye Whipples and Whitneys, ye Wilsons and Winslows, ye Wolcotts and Woodwards, ye Wrenns and Wrights, ye Wylies and Wymans, and all ye host of Williamses! Let us Wrise in our Wrath! Let us put an end to the tyranny of the Adamses and the aard-varks! Let us form a union — no, a W-nion! Let us vote for each other, trade with each other, read through to each other, and put each other in front rows!

Thus fortified, what though we still answer last at roll call, wait at the end of lines, go to the last window (‘way to your right, third around the corner’), and ride in the last automobiles? Let us together press onWard, forWard, and upWard, hitching our Wagon to the constellation of Cassiopeia, that resplendent W of the skies!