The letter F

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The letter F is the sixth letter and fourth consonant of our alphabet, and dates back to the Proto-Sinaitic letter waw. F is a fricative consonant, which means that the sound is produced by forcing air through a narrow channel: in F’s case, this is created by placing the lower lip against the upper teeth. In addition to the F-word, degrees Fahrenheit, F-stop, F-Troop, the musical note F and ff (fortissimo), F also stands for the Latin term fecit, or ‘made it’, and was often added by an artist or craftsman to the signature on their work. In typography, the lower case f is commonly seen as a ligature.

Special Letters Unit

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Once again, my visit to the gym coincided with the screening of Sesame Street. I really didn’t feel like going, but I was richly rewarded for my choice of the treadmill over a few more minutes of the crossword and another cup of coffee because Special Letters Unit: The Missing M was screening. This Law and Order: SVU spoof is impressive in its attention to detail, from the alphabet-themed intro and scene-punctuating chung chungs, to the mugshot of the Letter M complete with height scale. While all the characters are readily identifiable, the depiction of Munch is nothing short of brilliant.

The letter E

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The letter E is the fifth letter and second vowel in the Latin alphabet, and is by far the most commonly used letter, not only in English, but in many other languages, including French, German, Spanish, Czech, Danish and Norwegian. Over time, the direction of reading E has changed. The Phoenician letter HE represented a man with arms raised to the sky. The Etruscans turned it anticlockwise so the stem was on the right, then it was turned again to become the present-day E, with the stem on the left. E represents about fifteen sounds (here, there, everywhere and more!) and has many symbolic meanings—Energy, East, Ecstasy, electron, a musical note, and more recently, e for electronic.

The letter D

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In English, the letter D is the fourth letter and third consonant of the alphabet. D represents a voiced alveolar stop, which means it is sounded when the tongue is placed at the alveolar ridge (the roof of your mouth behind your teeth) and the tongue is pushed off with sound from the vocal cords. D’s origins can be traced to the Phoenician dalet, meaning door. The letter D is a musical note, has a value of 500 in roman numerals, and in typography, can be as heavy and imposing as Blackoak or as delicate and elegant as Gotham Thin, plus everything else in between.

The letter C

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In English, the letter C is the third letter and second consonant of the alphabet. It has many sounds: city, camera, choir, champagne, ocean, chihuahua, delicacy, delicious, acquit, indict. In music, C is the first note of the fixed do solfège scale. In the scientific world it is carbon and also velocity (from the Latin celeritas). A C with a comma underneath is a cedilla, and a c inside a circle is the copyright symbol. In typography the letter C comes in many shapes and weights. The curve of the letter generally extends slightly above x-height and slightly below the baseline to achieve optical alignment.

Red Z

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Although this big red Z is building signage it works equally well as urban sculpture. It’s a bold statement, this lightning bolt of red, and the cracks in the backdrop of plasterwork, the steely grey abutting the dirty, gritty off-white, and the hard shadow make the gutsy red metal shape even more dramatic.

The letter B

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B is the second letter and first consonant of our alphabet. Upper case B consists of two bowls, one on top of the other, adjoining a stem on the left. Lower case b has one bowl. Depending on the style, the bowls can be the same size, or the top bowl can be smaller. Historically it is thought that the capital letter B began as a pictogram of the floorplan of a house. B symbolises the voiced bilabial stop, a sound basic to human speech. But poor old B, always second best: B-rated, B-list, B-movie and Plan B, where B doesn’t stand for anything other than a shortfall of A. In the world of science and technology beta is second place. However B vitamins and the musical note B are certainly not second-rate, and when B is used for the abbreviation of bachelor, it comes before the A (of arts)!

Fuss

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Glebe Point Road used to be a great street to wander down, full of quirky and interesting shops and a passing parade of quirky and interesting people. It’s a less inspiring stretch now because the diversity has gone — about the only establishment left selling anything other than food is the bookshop. However the architecture remains, including this facade with its elaborate intertwined letters. At first I was impatient with its convolutedness, but then rather pleased that I could decipher the letters to so aptly spell FUSS.

Installation

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Sydney Book Art Group, of which I am a part, has an installation this week at Walsh Bay, Piers 2 and 3, as part of the 2013 Sydney Writers’ Festival. ‘Lifecycle’ consists of roughly 750 pages of ‘reborn text’ hanging from a Hills hoist and is the backyard component of the encompassing theme of rooms — there’s also a reading room, lounge room, kitchen and a viewing lounge. As a group we meet on a regular basis to discuss and share our work but this is our first collaboration.

The letter A

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The letter A is the first letter of most modern alphabets, and in English is the third most commonly used letter (after E and T). Our modern A evolved from the pictogram of an ox which became the Phoenician letter aleph which became the Greek alpha. A represents many things: a musical note, number one, first rate, top service, the first and best. In typography the lower case a can be drawn in the open form or the closed form. Most typefaces use the open a, but some, such as Futura, Lubalin Graph and Stone Informal, use the closed a. Many typefaces retain the open form across all the weights (Helvetica, Gotham), but many others, including Garamond, Minion, Sabon, Gill Sans and Lucida, to name but a few, use the open form in the roman weights and the closed form in the italic.