‘Ultimately,’ the reader read, ‘you see, he said, we run into a problem when we get to Z.’

Reading The Cat in the Hat Comes Back can be decidedly problematic.
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It’s a tale of the Hat-sporting Cat coming back, to the house of Sally and Me (unnamed in the story, we never know why, a little like Marwood in Withnail and I) as they’re clearing up snow (all that snow’s GOT to go), but Cat turns the snow pink and it causes a stink… Then the Cat needs some help – all the help he can get – so he calls on some little cat friends who get set to defeat the pink snow… wait! Did I mention yet? These tiny felines – the whole purring set – are named for each letter of the alphabet

26 little cats, underneath Big Cat’s hat, all in hats of their own, bearing letters, letters printed on the gear on their heads, and they start off with A, B, and C, D and E, all the way through to X, and then Y, and then Z.

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The good Dr Seuss, when he wrote this, you see, made a lot of the rhymes depend on the Z not being said (as it is in my head) as a fine English Zed but instead – can it be? – an American Zee… Yes, zee! Really!

Well, it gets as confusing as confusing can be! You can read it both ways to a mere child of three, but the rhymes make no sense if it’s Zed and not Zee, which is tough when you’re learning to read phonically, and “zuh” is in fact what you say when you’ve read the letter that concludes the alphabet (Z)…

Shakespeare called it ‘zed’, anyway, and that’s that, for I trust him much more than that Cat, with his Hat full of minuscule moggies, with alphabet names, regardless of their pink stain removal fame, and their trick of being hidden like Babushka dollies, for the Big Cat to store and transport ’em with ease, and much more than Cats A, B, and C, through to E, F and G, M and N, and O, and P, and then – finally – that tiny beast we can’t see but imagine instead, touting the magical VOOM on his head – the invisible, infernal, most terminal ZED!

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