A: Achievements, Foundations, and Beginnings

The Letter “A”

For the entirety of my academic life, I have aspired to see this letter.  I loved its crisp lines inked on paper, without the curves of a lesser letter that indicated I just hadn’t done my best.  Best of all was bringing home a report card to my parents with a column of “A”s, unmarred by mediocrity.  “A” brings me pride.  It was and is a mark of achievement and success.

This letter is also often used in a manner similar to measure words, a grammar feature I learned of while studying Chinese.  In English, the word “a” is commonly a stand-in for the word “one”, and is universal in its application.  Chinese nouns must be accompanied by measure words, which are specific to a given category, such as bowls or cows, whereas the word “a” can precede any noun I can think of (including many used in these very paragraphs).  As a result, “a” (or its vowel-accompanying equivalent, “an”) is the beginning for many phrases.  It is a fundamental part of our language, and thus part of the foundation for our communication with one another.  There are some words we can get away with not knowing all our lives, but this is not one of them.

Of course, one cannot forget that this is also the first of all the letters.  This is the beginning.

What does the letter “A” mean to you?

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