Middle Fingers to Order

A few weeks ago in class, Dr. McCoy asked us to line up in alphabetical order by last name. For a relatively large group of people, I think we were able to accomplish the task pretty quickly. Everyone seemed to have a general awareness of where in the line-up they would fall. Having been ordered in this way for most of our public lives, we had grown used to it. While discussing this later in the class period, my classmates and I questioned why we often situate things alphabetically. Thinking of dictionaries, The Bedford, work cited pages, and indexes, we determined that the reason is ultimately to make things easier to organize. Many people learn their ABCs when they’re very young children and they don’t ever forget them; it makes sense to use something so deeply ingrained in our heads to organize most of our lives.

My classmate Sarah brought up an interesting point, however; what even is alphabetical order? Why are the letters even listed in the specific order that they are? Everyone in my group laughed a little; none of us knew the answer to these questions, and we felt a bit silly–why are we so keen on following alphabetical order when we don’t even know why the order exists in the first place?

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