My younger son wanted a Watford FC replica shirt for Christmas. As young boys tend to do, he’s meddled with supporting the big clubs (I’ve rather lost count) but has, it seems, eventually settled on a side that, if not quite local, is at least located in the same county as us. I think that’s great, so I was happy to make the journey to buy him his shirt. He wanted the name Acuna, at the time Watford’s No. 15, on the back of his shirt.
There has been speculation that when the Pozzo family, Watford’s current owners, bought the club they didn’t quite know what they were getting – maybe they thought it was going to be a mini-Chelsea whereas, in fact, it’s a much-loved but ever so slightly down-at-heel town club. One thing is for sure, that they hadn’t briefed the club shop on the impact that their policy of bringing in a cohort of Italian and various other definitely non-Anglo Saxon players (Anya, Acuna, Assombalonga – now sold to Peterborough for, maybe, precisely this reason…) would have on their requirements for letters for replica shirts. So, the shop informed me, they had run out of the letter A. By contrast, you suspect that Arsenal bought up the European stockpiles of umlauts in advance when they signed Mesut Özil, but that’s the Premier League for you. Anyway, for all sorts of reasons, we decided that Acuna without the letter A was a non-runner.
Come Christmas, my son seemed happy with his shirt; I explained that I’d let him down on the name, but that we’d go to a game early in the new year and get it printed. And we had a great time, a proper football day out. When we got to the club shop, my son informed me that he’d changed his mind, and now wanted Troy Deeney (who definitely isn’t Italian) on the back of his shirt. That’s a lot of ‘E’s, I thought, as I slightly nervously approached the counter, but it transpired that they had plenty, so everyone was happy.
I’ve no doubt that there has been lots of in-depth academic research into the relative incidence of the letters of the alphabet in different languages. This is my contribution. More ‘A’s than ‘E’s in Italian and Spanish and the like. Probably.