O is for Oak

Quercus alba
The white oak has leaves with rounded lobes.

Significance and abbreviations

O is the fifteenth letter of the alphabet and the fourth vowel.

O is the human blood type of universal donors.

O is the chemical symbol of the element oxygen.

O’ as a prefix for a surname is the Irish abbreviation for “of the family”.

o’ stands for “of” in contractions such as “o’clock” and “man-o’-war”.

OK stands for okay and means that everything is all right.

OK is also the state postal code for Oklahoma, USA.

O levels (ordinary levels) was a level of secondary school examinations, part of the General Certificate of Education (GCE) in parts of the United Kingdom. It was replaced by the General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) in 1988. O levels are the equivalent to Grade 10 in Canada.

ON is the official provincial postal code for Ontario, Canada.

O.R. or OR is the abbreviation for Operating Room.

OR is also the official postal code for Oregon, USA.

Oz is slang for anything Australian.

Oz is also the mythical country and city portrayed in the film, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

oz. is an abbreviation for “onza”, Italian for ounce, a unit of measurement.

Some O words







ouch, ow!





  1. Identify more abbreviations, acronyms, and codes starting with the letter O.
  2. In the list of “Some O Words,” which have a hard O, a soft O, or a diphthong?

Special reading assignment


  1. Out and about the house. [Americans laugh at the way Canadians say this phrase. How do you say it?]
  2. Have you ever seen an ostrich swallow an orange?
  3. The royal or pedunculate oak (Quercus robur) is the national tree of England, the United Kingdom, Croatia, Latvia, and Estonia. Other species of oak represent Germany, Ireland, Moldova, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, the United States, and Wales.



M is for Mango

These tasty mangoes are displayed in a local shop.
These tasty mangoes are displayed in a local shop.

The Letter M: Significance and Abbreviations

M is the thirteenth letter of the alphabet and the Roman numeral 1,000.

M is the abbreviation for “Monsieur” [French], “medium” in clothing sizes, “middle,” and “Monday”.

As a symbol, a capital M stands for “mega—“ and a small m stands for “metres” or “milli—.”

MA is the code for Massachusetts used by the US postal service. Other US postal codes include ME (Maine), MN (Minnesota), and MO (Missouri).

An M-16 is a rifle.

Titles and Degrees

In contractions, the letter m stands for “my” in m’lord, for “am” in I’m, or for “madam” in yes’m. “Madam” may also be contracted to ma’am.

Ma is a contraction of “mama” or “mother”.

Miss is the form of address for an unmarried woman, Mrs or Mrs. (an abbreviation for “mistress” but now spelled out “missus”) for a married woman. As a compromise for women who choose not to reveal their marital status, there is Ms or Ms., pronounced “Mizz”.

For men, Mr or Mr. stands for “mister,” the title assigned to ordinary men. It is also used to denote a man holding a particular office or, in a jocular way, a man with a certain characteristic.

Mr. Morris

Mr. Speaker

Mr. Nice Guy

An MA or an M.A. is a Master of Arts degree. MD generally stands for Doctor of Medicine. As academic degrees, MD and M.A. are placed after the name.

Mike Morris, M.A.

Murray Jones, MD (or Dr. Murray Jones)


  1. Look for additional abbreviations, acronyms, and codes that include the letter M.

Special reading assignment

  1. Minnie Mouse minced more melons into the mix with mangoes.
  1. My Mazerati made a marvellous impression on the motorway.

Note: This blog post is an excerpt from a book, English Manual: Letter by Letter, to be published in the fall of 2014.

F is for Fern

This fern is growing in a swampy location in Ontario, Canada. Can you identify it for me?
This fern is growing in a swampy location in Ontario, Canada. Can you identify it for me?

Significance and abbreviations

F is the sixth letter of the alphabet and is spelled ef or eff.

F is for Fahrenheit, or a failing grade at school.

32 degrees Fahrenheit is the same as 0 degrees Celsius.

 f or F is for “female”.

Check the box:             [] F      [] M

FAQ stands for “frequently asked questions”.

Fax stands for “facsimile transmission”.

Send your letter by fax.

Fig. is short for figure.

Fig. 1. A graphic illustration of the text.

FX is usually short for special effects.

Shed FX is a company that sells sheds.

F is for fuddle duddle

Surprisingly, the F-word is now in the dictionary. It is most often used for its shock value.

Fuck is identified as coarse slang or a curse in the Canadian Oxford Dictionary.

Notice that this word rhymes with luck. Most luck in life depends upon self-discipline; in this case, if you can discipline yourself to never use the F-word, you will have lots of good luck in your life.

Fuddle-duddle is a euphemism used in Parliament by the Canadian Prime Minister, the late Pierre Elliot Trudeau.


  1. Think of some more creative euphemisms for the F-word.
  2. Can you find some additional abbreviations using the letter F?
  3. When you go for a walk, look around for ferns. You may be surprised where they grow. 

Special reading assignments

  1. Figs fall into the genus Ficus. Look for Ficus trees growing in hotel lobbies.
  2. The Free French fought fiercely.




C is for Clover

Trifolium pratense
Clover is found growing in fields and along roadsides.

Significance and history

C is a consonant [Con = with; son = sound; ant = causing] and may be spelled, “cee”.

C is a derived from the Greek gamma and the Semitic gimel.

The original meaning for gimel is “camel”. The Phoenician symbol was sideways, pointed up like a camel’s hump, but perhaps the original symbol was meant to be a throwing stick like a boomerang.

 As an abbreviation, C stands for Centigrade or Celsius; century; circa, or cubic.

The Roman numeral C is a symbol for 100.

cf.  stands for “compare”, from the Latin, conferre.

Special characters

© stands for copyright. A copyright statement consists of the copyright symbol ( ©  ), the author’s name or the publishers, and the date of publication.

© 1973, John W. & Sons, Inc.

Copyright © Charlotte Gray, 1999 


  1.  Can you think of any abbreviations or acronyms beginning with the letter C?


B is for Banana

Fruit: bananas
A basket of bananas.

Significance, abbreviations, and contractions

B stands for the second in the order of things.

b. may stand for “born” or “date of birth”, e.g., the Right Hon. Richard Bedford Bennett, b. 3 July 1870.

As an abbreviation, B.A. or BA after a name is a bachelor of arts degree.

B’y is a contraction for “boy” in Newfoundland English. (“I’s the b’y that builds the boat” is a popular folk song.)

Bye in “good bye” is also a contraction. “Good bye” means “God be with you”.

Bye-bye” is a further contraction.