We enter the second half of our alphabet with N, which could have been for Nebuchadnezzar, had we not dealt with that king’s wild manias under M for Mead and Medica Sacra. That being so, N is for Nothing.

“Oh what horror to bite on nothing”, sang Peter Blegvad, once upon a time. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Our next letter, O, could be taken for Nothing, too, if it were to be misread as 0, or zero, which it can be, if you are not looking carefully and don’t give a damn about context. Iggy Pop claims that his band, The Stooges, has the best band-name ever, simply because of that “oo” in the middle. But the “oo” sound, written down, can also be interpreted as a double-zero, a double nothingness, as in, for example, the surname of the poet Rupert Brooke, propelled into the nothingness of death by a gnat-bite to his lip, as he sailed towards the Dardanelles, and Gallipoli. Edgar Allan Poe has just the one O at the centre of his surname, the O of a maelstrom, such as the maelstrom that lies in wait for Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket as he vanishes into a white nothingness. Iggy, too, has a central O in his surname, coupled by the O of his real surname, Osterburg.

But I ought not be babbling about all these Os now, when we are speaking of N, when we are speaking of Nothing.

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