ALPHA TO OMEGA: The Life and Times of the Greek Alphabet by Alexander & Nicholas Humez Humez

ALPHA TO OMEGA: The Life and Times of the Greek Alphabet

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A pleasantly scatterbrained romp through classical antiquity and beyond. A. & N. Humez take each of the 24 letters of the Greek alphabet and play various games with them, mostly philological, historical, and scientific. They write with a sort of relentless jollity, peppering their routine with bits of slangy silliness (""If you were judged to be a good guy, you went to the Elysian Fields to frolic"")--but they know their Greek. In fact, they know all sorts of things. The chapter on Omicron, for example, begins with oenology, and compares Greek and Egyptian methods of sealing wine jars. This leads naturally to Dionysus and how he make it into Olympus, to Athenian drinking practices, and a bad joke about two caterpillars in an amphora. Omicron also reminds the authors of ornithopters (""muscle-powered flying machines"") and of numerous people who invented or flew them, including Bladud, the ninth king of England and father of King Lear. Finally we get a few remarks on ontology, the Michelson-Morley experiment, Albert Einstein, and Bertrand Russell. Why not? Other, more typical, chapters concentrate on matters linguistic (the links between sun, sol, and helios) and classical-cultural (Thespis, Aristophanes, the career of Heinrich Schliemann, etc.). Except for a few errors in Latin, the etymologies are carefully and professionally done. The whole potpourri is unpretentious, often entertaining, and, as they say, informative. As non-books go, not bad at all.

Pub Date: June 30th, 1981
Publisher: Godine