Friday, January 24, 2014

`Here's to the Quirky Beauty of Its Tail'

In Scrabble, it spells wealth (10 points, like “Z”) – or, if unused, sudden death. In medicine, a measure of perfusion. A’s partner. P’s partner. The penname of Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch and nickname of Quincy Jones. A measure of the familiarity and appeal of a brand, company or celebrity (from “quotient”). One of the Nonsense Novels by Stephen Leacock. On a medical prescription, “each” or “every” (from Latin quaque). Nabokov saw it as “browner than k.” The abbreviation for the amino acid glutamine. Banned in 1928 from the alphabet by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk (reinstated in 2013). The leftmost letter on the keyboard. Thus, the first letter in QWERTY. In chemistry, the amount of energy transferred as heat. The queen in chess notation. In electrical engineering, a measure of how under-damped an oscillator or resonator is. Unaccompanied by “u” in seventy-one English words. He outfits James Bond. “Q” is also the title of the first poem in Michael McFee’s What Was Oasis (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2012): 

U's mate, O with a new root,
the one capital letter
which probes below the base line,
here's to the quirky beauty 

“of its tail, that fluent tongue
stuck from a wide-open mouth,
that elegant half-mustache
parted quickly toward the east, 

“that antique handle we grasp
to lift up the monocle
of our alphabet's monarch,
that final flourish of the quill.”

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