Dear Eloise,

Your name is one letter from the love of Abelard. Eloise, name of the nearly beloved. Pray that Plautus was wrong about the nomen atque omen business.

The name of this journal, Letters, never made much sense to me. Does the name refer to epistles or to אs and בs? Or something else? I accept the mystery and now take the name as a directive. Thus my letters to you.

Do letters and words run afoul of the idea that the actual precedes the potential? It’s not a question that would occur to Aristotle or his predecessors because they didn’t write words. Look at the old Greek and Latin carvings: they wrote in blocks of text without spaces between the groups of letters. Only later did Byzantine editors put in the spaces and accents to create words as we know them now. What they did when they read and wrote is not what we do. I think this leads to a lot of misunderstanding (e.g., philology). When we open Liddell & Scott, it’s good to remember there were no Greek lexicons before the time of Alexander and nothing approximating a dictionary as we know it for a long time after that.

We make do with what we have.

You once told me the dictionary is the most beautiful type of book and if you had to pick only one book to read for the rest of your life, you would choose Lewis & Short’s Latin dictionary. I don’t think you’ll be happy with this letter.

As for my one and only book? I would pick something small and minor, like Aira’s Varamo, lest I lose my mind in obsession. Better not to read than to become a monk.

Forgive me, Eloise!

vale pancratice,