O: The Letter of Emotional Surges

And there, in fright, with one foot out, Made one dead step and turned about. Heeh, hee, oh! oh! ooh! oo! Look there! And oh! so playsome, oh! so fair.

The Surprise William Barnes

Formed from an open mouth as if in surprise or climax, the letter O is the first character in ooh, ouch, oh!, orgy, ow, oops, oral and orgasm. The use of the O sound to communicate surprise and excitement even extends to chimpanzee societies where chimps hoot with an extended oo-oo-oo sound reminiscent of a roused-up Jerry Springer audience.

Pauline Reage acknowledged its orgiastic qualities in the classic French novel The Story of O, a fictional account of a woman whose sexual surrender involved obedience to her lover’s sadistic fantasies. Cirque du Soleil chose the name O for their breathtaking underwater circus in Las Vegas, and the American writer O. Henry -- whose short stories were noted for their ironic and unexpected endings -- was probably equally surprised when police showed up at his door to arrest him for embezzlement.

Perhaps due to its identification with the quirky and unusual (oddball, outcast, oblique, obnoxious, outrageous, and offensive), the initial letter O capitalizes less than one half of one percent of all names and ranks consistently low in terms of business and artistic success. But when it comes to professional sports the O names shine, ranking third over all the letters in the alphabet.