“Alphabet” comes from the names of the first two Greek letters, alpha and beta. But you knew that.
Rita Mae Brown, in her book Starting From Scratch: A Different Kind Of Writers’ Manual, suggests that in order to be a writer, one must study Latin. With all due respect to a highly successful bestselling author, I had three years of Latin and two years of Greek in high school, and it’s a load of crap. The only people who have any use for it are either celibate or dead. Or, in the words of the poet:
Latin is a language,
Dead as Dead Can Be,
First it Killed the Romans,
Now It’s Killing Me.
All are dead who spoke it.
All are dead who wrote it.
All are dead who learned it,
Lucky dead, they’ve earned it.
Nevertheless, I was ordered to take Latin in high school by my mother, using the same logic as Ms. Brown in her book. She told me that I would learn English better, because so much English vocabulary was derived from Latin.
I thought I was being smart when, at the end of sophomore year, I told my mother that I would be taking Greek in junior and senior year. She grumbled, but consented. The following year went well, although I got a lot of static from the college counselors (and my mother) reminding me that I really should have stayed with Latin for four years if I wanted to avoid having to take more of it in college. I guess I should have listened to them. I took both Latin and Greek in senior year, did well enough to pass, and ended up taking a quarter of Latin anyway.
The fisrt thing we had to learn, of course, was the alphabet:
This came in useful when my brother decided to join the Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity and needed to learn it. It was also useful when, as a math major, I had to use many of the letters in formulae (the nominative plural of formula, a first-declension noun, not that anyone needs to know that). It went downhill after that. I passed both, barely.
The thing that bothers me the most is that I can walk into a room to do something and forget why I went in there, I can forget things that were just told to me, and yet you could wake me at 3 AM and I could recite the Greek alphabet and decline the word “nauta” (sailor). If I could clean all the old junk out of my head, there’d be plenty of room for new stuff. Oh, well.