People with surnames that begin with an A, B or C are the worst

I’m a W. By the time my name gets called everyone has lost interest or headed home

I was at a launch recently and the woman at the desk scrolled through the list of invitees to get to my name. One page was turned over and then another and another. Eventually my name was located. It probably didn’t take that long but when you’re standing there watching and waiting, you half-expect a hand on the shoulder. A polite but firm cough. Some mention of not belonging. Of being in the wrong place.

I’m a W, you see. Nestled at the bottom of the alphabet.

Way, way down.

Towards the very end.


The details of my birth have positioned me at the very edge of the linguistic world.

I am perched on a phonetic cliff.

When it comes to rolls, my name gets called when everyone has lost interest or headed home or is staring out the window wondering what they’ll have for dinner.

Oddly enough, things weren’t always so bad. In primary school, my name got translated into Irish. I became Nic an Bhaird and in one awesome swoop leapfrogged my way into the top tier.

I became a B.

I figured this was just the way things were, even if I had no idea who this Nic an Bhaird person was. But as I got older, I somehow sensed that this was all a cod. That this strange, unfamiliar entity only existed in the tiny sliver of time it took to utter her name and had no real connection to the me that was wandering around those convent corridors.

Life at the bottom

The BBC has cited studies that indicate that those of us at the less salubrious end of the alphabet are far more likely to have unsatisfactory experiences both at school and when entering the workplace and – wait for it – are also far more likely to join the military.

During the recent May local election and European parliament campaigns, a political commentator who knew her stuff casually mentioned that those whose names were at the end of the voting paper probably lost one to two percentage points as a direct result.

In a lot of constituencies those voting papers went on and on, and it seemed that voters exercising their democratic duty simply lost interest. They wanted to go home and watch Maura and Dáithí in the afternoon or put on the washing or play a round pitch and putt. Anything – anything – rather than spend a few extra seconds considering the qualities of prospective public representatives whose names began with letters that necessitated going a little further down the page.

And so they indiscriminately gave their votes to those good-for-nothing Ns to Vs.

So, who was it that came up with this idiotic order in the first place? And why has the English-speaking world and, according to the BBC, a bunch of other worlds as well, jumped into line with something that has no rational basis and is clearly as arbitrary as the day is long?

Was it raining outside or were they just plain bored when they stumbled upon this random hierarchy of letters? Whatever the reason – whatever the weather – I would put every single one of my life’s possessions on the fact that their surname began with an A or a B or a C.

Smug and self-satisfied

They are the worst. The very worst. They loll around, all smug and self-satisfied, with their apples and their bananas and their cats.

Which brings me to that song. Not the alphabet song, which is nothing more than a form of indoctrination. The “A, You’re Adorable” song that goes on to inform us that “B, you’re so beautiful” and “C, you’re so cute”.

You can see where this is going.

Suffice it to say, the writer of that song as good as gave up right pretty much where the Ws came along. You can almost picture him there at the piano, Scotch in hand, deciding there was more than enough money to be had indulging the alphabetic front-loaders and heading for a refill sooner than making any effort to bring the rest of us into the mix.

So me and my X to Z comrades have been turned into outcasts.

But outcasts can be rebels.

Outcasts can be revolutionaries.

Us Ws to Zs have walls and X-rays, yachts and zoos and, given our military experience, we’re not afraid to use them.

And we’re in no hurry here. We can wait in the long grass, blending in, unseen, unnoticed. After all, we’re used to being invisible and we’re used to hanging around. It’s been our default position for pretty much all of our lives.

As easy as A, B, C?

Not for much longer!