Sunday, November 04, 2007

Easy as A-B-C

Zozo got lots of great things for Halloween, which is remarkable given that I never thought Halloween was a gift-giving holiday. Apparently, however, there is a special code Grandparents live by that is different from the rest of us. Giving your grandchild gifts for holidays like Halloween falls under the Spoilage Clause, where it is outlined in great detail that Grandparents are exempt from all normal rules of raising children. Bedtimes are broken, nutritional values for meals are discretionary, and gifts are given for every reason under the sun, and sometimes for no reason at all.

Anyway, Zozo received some wonderful gifts for Halloween, one of them being a Leap Frog Fridge Phonics Magnetic Letter Set. It comes with a magnetic letter reader that, upon insertion of a letter, sings a little song. "B says 'buh,' B says 'buh,' every letter makes a sound, B says 'buh.'" There's also a little music note that, when pressed, sings the entire Alphabet Song. It's a great toy and Zoe loves loves loves it. She sings along, which means she says "Buh!" about one beat behind the letter reader. It's adorable, and we all have fun with it.

Tonight, though, as I was doing my weekly ritual of picking up the house and gathering things for trash and recycle, I came across the box. In the process of breaking it down to put it in my cardboard recycle bin, I read this purchase incentive statement on the back:

Includes all 26 letters!

Well, duh. Wouldn't it be a pretty shitty Magnetic Letter Set if it, for instance, randomly left out letters? Or would they target those pesky, seldom used letters like X and Z? (I'm not saying Z is a pesky letter, on the contrary, I'm rather fond of it.) Wouldn't people tend to not purchase alphabet learning toys if they didn't include all 26 letters? Do people really buy things like this that don't have exclamations on the outside of the box and say, "Well, gee, I sure hope all 26 letters are included in this, because if P is missing, we're going to have a helluva time getting Johnny up to speed." Or, "I'll open this at home, and by God, if there aren't all 26 letters included, I'm taking it back!"

At what point did the marketing department at Leap Frog say, "Hey, be sure to put that this toy includes all 26 letters...that's a huge selling point!" Or was it that they had a bit of extra space on the box, they had already listed all the other attributes, it was late, and they wanted to go home. "Oh, hell, throw an exclamation point behind that statement and make it sound exciting. Who's up for a beer?"

This is just a warning to everyone out there to always read the packages on your children's toys very carefully. Somewhere out there must be an alphabet learning tool with less than 26 letters.

In doing some research for this (yes, I sometimes do a bit of background research when writing the's how I can bring you fascinating and worthless pieces of information such as the percentage of red m&m's in each bag, generally), I came across this chart.

Frequency of Letter Use in English

A - 8.17%
B- 1.49%
C - 2.78%
D - 4.25%
E - 12.70%
F - 2.23%
G - 2.02%
H - 6.09%
I - 6.97%
J - 0.15%
K - 0.77%
L - 4.03%
M - 2.41%
N - 6.75%
O - 7.51%
P - 1.93%
Q - 0.10%
R - 5.99%
S - 6.33%
T - 9.06%
U - 2.76%
V - 0.98%
W - 2.36%
X - 0.15%
Y - 1.97%
Z - 0.07%

As you can see, J, Q, X and Z don't really have a case for being included in the Leap Frog Fridge Phonics Magnetic Letter Set. They just lucked out or had an in with someone in engineering.

Personally, if I were going to get rid of a letter, it would be W. It's like a gift from the Redundant Department of Redundancy. We have a U, we need a double U? There are no other letters that get doubled...why is U so special? Hell, while we're at it, let's toss U, too, for having the sheer gall to double itself and create a whole other letter.

Besides, if we got rid of W, well, then, there are a whole lot of bumper stickers that would go away, and I'd never have to hear the word "Dubya" ever again.


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