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Arts & Culture

It's Time To Talk About The Alphabet In The Room

Most of the Western world is organized by alphabetical order, which is so much more than the 26 letters that make up the alphabet. Alphabetical order is an organizing principle that allows us to save, order, and access thousands of years of humankind's most precious documents and ideas. Without it, we'd never know what came before us or how to pass on what's with us. It's ubiquitous, yet invisible in daily life.

This hour, a conversation about how we order our world and why we do it. 


  • Nicholson Baker - A novelist and essayist; he's the author of 17 books, including, most recently, Baseless: My Search for Secrets in the Ruins of the Freedom of Information Act; he's currently the Jennifer Jahrling Forese Writer-in-Residence in Creative Writing at Colby College
  • Judith Flanders - A social historian and senior research fellow at the University of Buckingham; her new book is A Place For Everything: The Curious History of Alphabetical Order
  • Peter Sokolowski - A lexicographer and editor-at-large at Merriam-Webster and co-host of the podcast Word Matters; he's also a musician and public radio jazz host at NEPR and the author of a chapter in The Whole World in a Book

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Colin McEnroe and Cat Pastor contributed to this show. 

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