The List of one letter words starting with A is a list of one letter words starting with A. First compiled by Samuel L. Johnson in 1756 and published on February 14 1759, it was intended as the first part of a follow-up to his better known Dictionary, but the List of one letter words starting with A was the only part published before Johnson's death in 1784. It is considered one of the classic texts of the English language. Remarkably, Johnson managed to complete this list singlehandedly, with only clerical assistance to help with his research into opium dens and households of negotiable affection.
Previous lists of one letter words starting with A
There had been previous lists of one letter words starting with A written in Latin, French, Ebonics and COBOL prior to Johnson. While evidence exists that "Ae Liste of Words of Onne Letter Begynning With A" had been written in 1066 by Harold II, it is considered neither as comprehensive nor definitive as Johnson's list, and rather one-eyed in its presentation. Other attempts to compile a list of one letter words starting with A have been noted throughout history, many of them plagued with sabotage, theft, intense rivalry between co-authors, and in one severe case the death of all involved and half the population of Scotland. Noah Webster's "An American list of one letter words starting with A" was published several years later, but is considered derivative at best. Geoffrey Chaucer's "āc bōc of ān ǣrendgewrit words beginnan mid A", contained within the Prologue to the Lexicographer's Tale, is considered to be the first instance of pre-emptive plagiarism, since nobody could understand it until 1792.
Johnson's research and preparation
Johnson knew that any creatively successful sequel to Dictionary would need to both build on his previous work and introduce new themes and ideas. In an example that would inspire many in years to come, Johnson's publisher offered him an alternative route - crib from his earlier work, or even just split it up into several books and sell each of them for the same cost as the original, more complete version. After struggling for literally seconds on the issue, Johnson decided that he liked the thought of being able to drown himself in beer, and started the work.
Several months passed, with Johnson's research continuing late into the night and through until the next morning, except in pubs which had to close. Eventually Johnson was contacted by his publisher, who demanded to know what the clodzarks was going on. Johnson replied that the word clodzarks didn't exist, and he should know, because he wrote the bloody Dictionary and clodzarks wasn't in it. The publisher's prompt reply involved several large men with big sticks, and the list was completed forthwith, as well as a revised version of the Dictionary containing the following entry:
- Clodzarkſ: I am d---'d if I know what thiſ meanſ, but it iſ apparently quite important to ſome large, cudgel-bearing fellowſ, and who am I to ſay them nay?
Justifying his actions, he later said:
|“||I ſhall therefore, ſince the rules of ſtile, like thoſe of law, ariſe from people with big ſticks telling people without big ſticks what to do, compile this liſt of one letter words ſtarting with A, and endeavour to make aſ much money aſ poſſible by drawing out its publication for as long as poſſible. If anyone objects, I'll headbutt the baſtards in the groin.||”|
Reception and reviews
The initial printing of the Liſt of one letter wordſ ſtarting with A sold out fairly quickly. Johnson and his publisher, ecstatic with their success, immediately set up printing of Special Edition versions of the Liſt of one letter wordſ ſtarting with A, including alternate covers, foil editions and the special hardback version signed by Johnson. However, critical reception of the work was rather poor, and the Special Editions failed to sell well. Plans for continuing the series were shelved, and Johnson went on to die of shame only 25 years later.
“Johnſon's initial work, Dictionary, ſhewed promiſe for this young authour. However, his ſecond outing is merely pale imitation of the previous work, ſhewing naught but contempt for the poor clodzarks who purchaſe it. Wait for the movie.”
“Piſs-poor, even by Johnſon's lax ſtandards.”
“An unmitigated pile of crap. I wouldn't uſe this to wipe my bum with, and I'm not chooſy, let me tell you.”
“A tour-de-force, a work of art. Completely blows Dictionary away. Johnſon is the new ſhakeſpeare.”
The first edition of the Liſt of one letter words ſtarting with A was sold in folio edition. As of 2002 the first edition might sell from US$20,000.50 to US$35,000.50, while a copy of the signed hardback edition can be safely used for setting fire to accordions.
The List of one letter words starting with A has been adapted into several languages, including German, American English and C. It has also been adapted to film, radio and even in graphic novel form by Alan Moore as V for Vendetta, although this does contain some slight changes from the original List of one letter words starting with A.
It has been adapted to film several times, with possibly the best known version being Hammer Horror's The List of one letter words starting with A of DEATH! starring Claude Rains. The more recent The list of one-letter words starting with A (note the hyphen) written by Charlie Kaufman and starring John Malkovich was warmly greeted by critics with flamethrowers, but failed at the box office.
List of one letter words starting with A is soon to be remade by the Wachowski Siblings as a cyber-punk tale of redemption, loss, the human spirit, and shitty, shitty sequels. It will star Keanu Reeves, Steve Martin, and the corpse of Marlon Brando as the corpse of Samuel Johnson.
Spile Milligner (the well-known typing error) devised a crossword for idiots, in the 1960s. Clues were: One across: First letter of the alphabet. One down: The indefinite article.
The BBC adapted the List of one letter words starting with A with Alec Guinness and Pamela Anderson. More well-known is the infamous adaptation by Orson Welles, which when first broadcast caused widespread panic across the USA.
Andrew Lloyd Webber released video in early 2007 to the press on his plans to release a musical adaptation of the List of one letter words starting with A unless his demands are met. As of this writing authorities are treating the threat as serious. Lloyd Webber has been on Interpol's Least Wanted list for several years, and is to be considered armed and musical, in spite of all evidence to the contrary.
Several alternative musical versions have been bruited. A list of one letter words beginning with A!, by the Old Sodbury Amateur Dramatic and Flowerpot Makers' Association was swiftly followed by A list of one letter words beginning with A – The Musical! by the Chipping Sodbury Amateur Dramatic and Flowerpot Smashers' Guild.
The One-Upmanship Theatre Company of Adelaide, Australia, has recently produced A list of one letter words beginning with A – On Ice!, followed by A list of one letter words beginning with A – On Ice, On Fire!, followed by A list of one letter words beginning with A – On Ice, On Fire, On Helium!. The gala opening of the latter performance was attended by the ghosts of Samuel Johnson and Samuel L. Johnson, both of whom gave it a 'thumbs up'.