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Sister Souljah!

Everyone thinks the blogosphere is too predictable nowadays and nobody breaks from the party line. So time to break! I like Eric Umansky's work but as someone whose name starts "ygl" I can't abide by this mocking of Kyrgyzstan for its alleged paucity of vowels ("Kyrgyz Prtstrs Vrthrw Gvrnmt"). In other name-related news, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities did a conference call the other day where, after the featured speakers said what they had to say, did a question and answer session for reporters with questions asked in alphabetical order! Alphabetism is, truly, the last socially acceptable form of discrimination in America. Liberals, really, need to do a better job of reaching out to the alphabetically challenged. What with Kerry, Gore, Clinton, Dukakis, Mondale, Carter, Humphrey, Johnson, and Kennedy we haven't nominated somebody from the last half of the alphabet since 1956. Think about it.

March 25, 2005 | Permalink


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Don't forget McGovern!

Posted by: anon | Mar 25, 2005 2:31:22 PM

I guess Stevensen really had a bad effect on the party losing twice. Made everyone forget Truman and Roosevelt.

Posted by: Njorl | Mar 25, 2005 2:40:21 PM

Stevenson lost twice and that scared the party out of it...

Posted by: David T | Mar 25, 2005 2:40:30 PM

Of course, what I'd like to see is a fellow facial-hair-wearer elected to something. I realize that the duties of the presidency are not compatible with facial hair, but I think a truly outstanding individual might be able to fulfill the obligations of a representitive while encumbered by a beard.

Posted by: Njorl | Mar 25, 2005 2:44:14 PM

Well, come to that, the Republicans are pretty heavy on the first half of the alphabet too. Bush, Dole, Bush, Reagan, Ford, Nixon, Goldwater, Eisenhower: they're 2 for 8 rather than 1 for 8, which isn't anything to write home about. And Nixon is barely even in the second half.

Posted by: The42ndGuy | Mar 25, 2005 2:44:32 PM

Dean, Lieberman, Gephardt, Edwards, Kucinich and Mosely-Bruan wouldn't have been better. Only Sharpton could have pulled it out for us late letter people.

In terms of facial hair, that's another huge taboo on a nominee. I feel like someone with a beard could pull it off, but not with just a mustache. Senator Corzine is one of the few who will consistently sport a beard, but I'm not sure about his Presidential ambitions (but I'd support him eventually!)

For those trivia mongers, the last bearded president was Benjiman Harrison, although Grover Cleveland, Teddy Roosevelt and Howard Taft had mustaches since. But we may never see a president with something like Chester Arthur's bushy mustache into sideburns. How terrible is that.

Posted by: dstein | Mar 25, 2005 3:27:35 PM

I think there is an anti-S bias in presidential politics. Do you realize that there has never been a President whose last name began with "S"? And this despite the fact that S is the most common last initial in the US!

Unfortunately, I can't think of any real good candidates to break the slump, as Santorum seems like the only potential '08 contender, and let's all pray that doesn't happen.

-someone with an S name

Posted by: right | Mar 25, 2005 3:33:22 PM

Get over it, Y boy! Besides, left handedness discrimination is a far more pressing problem.

Posted by: Stan*D* | Mar 25, 2005 3:41:30 PM

"Still, I'm interested in the question of where politicians who aren't just leaping into the family business come from and how they get ahead, so I found this interesting."
- Matthew Yglesias

Presidential campaigns are starting earlier and earlier. I whole heartedly endorse Yglesias for President in 2016 or 2020( 35 by 2016?).

Posted by: theCoach | Mar 25, 2005 3:47:53 PM

Governors with S inlucde Schweitzer (MT), Sanford(SC), Schwartzenegger (CA) and Sebelius (KS). Senators are Salazar (CO), Santorum (PA), Sarbanes (MD), Schumer (NY), Sessions (AL), Shelby (AL), Smith (OR), Snowe (ME), Spector (PA), Stabenow (MI), Stevens (AK) and Sununu (NH). Wow, 12 of 100 seats. Other S notables include future NY Governor Eliot Spitzer, Congressmen Sensenbrenner (CA), Sanders (VT), Skelton (MO) among many, two cabinet members: Spellings and Snow and one awful independent prosecutor: Ken Starr.

Posted by: dstein | Mar 25, 2005 4:25:24 PM

At the 1972 Democratic convention, the roll call was actually taken in random order to fight against alphabetic discrimination. This fact is often cited by conservatives as evidence that liberals went insane around this time.

Posted by: Tom Scarlett | Mar 25, 2005 4:36:27 PM

Back when English was a much newer language, I was taught in grade school that "y" is SOMETIMES a vowel. Doesn't that apply in "Yglesias" or has the rule been dropped because it confused people on Wheel of Fortune?

Posted by: Bob Munck | Mar 25, 2005 4:42:48 PM

Don't blame me ... I voted for Vermin Supreme!

Posted by: strannix | Mar 25, 2005 5:17:15 PM

Note that I said "alleged lack of vowels." I know perfectly well that "y" is a respectable vowel.

Posted by: Matthew Yglesias | Mar 25, 2005 5:26:52 PM

"I know perfectly well that "y" is a respectable vowel."

Someone with as low an A.Q. (Alphabetical Quotient) as you would think so.

Posted by: Petey | Mar 25, 2005 5:43:04 PM

I remember learning "sometimes Y and W." I agree that Y is a perfectly good vowel. But I'm skeptical of the W claim, since it only appears in dipthongs; you could just as easily say it is a consonant that modifies vowels.

Posted by: Paul Callahan | Mar 25, 2005 6:53:44 PM

I was thinking that the might be a perfectly good explanation connected to letter frequency, but we would need specifically the frequency of first letters of surnames. A phone book might be a good place to look for this.

Being too lazy to hunt down a phone book, I did a quick google search to find such a list that I could analyze automatically. The first one I found is supposedly the membership list of Yale's Skull & Bones.


Well, what could be a better proxy for the names of presidents? :) Anyway, long story short, there are 1509 names in the A-M range and 827 in the N-Z range, so if names were selected from this list, you'd have almost twice as high a probability of hitting the first half of the alphabet.

Posted by: Paul Callahan | Mar 25, 2005 7:11:58 PM

Oh please, random sampling? How scientific. Don't you know that passionately delivered personal anecdotes, preferably infused with religious faith, are the modern standard of proof?

Whenever I stand in a line for a race, or when I used to do for school registration, there were always more lines for the first half of the alphabet than for the second.

This leads inevitably to the conclusion that God intends us to have last names in the first half of the alphabet, and thus that those who defy His will in this matter are suspect.

And frankly, to defy His will to the degree that one has a last name beginning with Y! The next-to-the-last letter of the alphabet...!

I frankly don't know whether I should even be posting here.

Posted by: bleh | Mar 25, 2005 8:51:40 PM

(1) California uses a randomly ordered quasi-alphabet for determining ballot position of candidates. This was a semi-problem in the Schwarzenegger election, with over a hundred candidates on the ballot.

(2) On average, alphabetical order is Bad for the Jews, who are heavy on Steins and Zimmermans. Hardly any Goys past W, in fact.

(3) Good for the Arabs, who favor Al- and Abu- prefixes.

(4) For many years, the first baseball player in history alphabetically was also the first player in home runs (Aaron); in basketball, the first player alphabetically was also the first player in scoring (Abdul-Jabbar). Coincidence? I think so.

Posted by: old guy | Mar 25, 2005 10:05:07 PM

Matt --
First the Republicans came for the Adelsteins, but I did not speak up, for I was not an A.
Then the Republicans came for Barbara Boxer, but I did not speak up, for I was not a Boxer.
By the time they get to Y, you'll have fled to some far away place. Last on the list has advantages too, I'm sure. Depends on whether carrots or sticks are on the menu, ya?

Posted by: DeadHorseBeater | Mar 25, 2005 10:23:22 PM

My 7th grade teacher, Miss Van Vechten, returned papers in reverse alphabetical order, as revenge for a lifetime of alphabeticism.

The Cambridge, MA white pages has the M/N break 65% of the way through, by the way.

Posted by: DonBoy | Mar 26, 2005 12:51:05 AM

And I just noticed how your blogroll is arranged.

Posted by: DonBoy | Mar 26, 2005 12:51:47 AM

Alphabetical order: back when I was a math perfesser, I called the roll in reverse-alphabetical order about half the time, just to even things out a bit.

W as a vowel: isn't that basically about words borrowed from Welsh, like 'cwm'?

Lefty discrimination: I'm a lefthander, but I'm hard-pressed to think of any problem I have from living in a 'righty' world that constitutes more than the mildest of annoyances.

I run into a lot more problems from going by my middle name in a first-name, middle-initial world. But that's a rant for another day.

Posted by: RT | Mar 26, 2005 8:53:40 AM

When I was in elementary school we lined up alphabetically for a month and then reverse-alphabetically for a month and sometimes in order of who did the best in the spelling bee.

Kinda like life, if you think about it.

Posted by: Dan | Mar 28, 2005 9:53:56 AM

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