Sian Cole wants to put an "n" in everyone's bag to help them go out with a bang. She also recommends adding them in pairs to "bokig". Norman Foster advises taking a pocketful of n's and Ns to Bonfire Night together with an empty bag. "Then when you need some excitement, drop an `n' into the bag to create a bang. Big Ns cause louder bangs. He warns, however, that placing more than one N in the bag is a capital offence.
Val Pargeter says: "'S obvious wha's 'appened to the li'l 'ns. innit? They've gone to lay eggs." She also suspects they may have been taken by students "studying for the nth degree". Mike White says the missing 'ens will come home to roost in the Millhenium Dome.
"Collecting `n's amuses hens, confined in pens, like specimens," rhymes Maguy Higgs. Duncan Bull says the missing "n"s have been liberated by Animal Welfare Activists.
Charles Ve'i'g writes to The I'depe'de't to accuse us of apparet igorace: "The missig letters i' the word millenium (lucky to get 1) are beig bulk- shipped to poor countries to make Nsmeat." Mollie Caird would rather use them to n-hance the n-vironment. Luela Palmer is clear about who is to blame: "A divinity hath misshaped our Ns, hewing them too roughly." She (and several others) doubt whether the Ns justify the means. Neil Hudson is worried that the Millennium Text Bomb will reset all letters to "a".
Bruce Birchall believes that the flea pole-vault referees have put the bars back on, turing Ns back into Hs. John and Fiona Earle point out that the use of an "n" in such plurals as oxen and brethren, liberates several "s"s for other duties. Harry Mackley blames the increasing use of buzz- words, which has led to a shortage of Zeds, only redeemable by rotating Ns and transplanting. "If the buzz becomes a humming," he says, "we'll be in trouble with Ws." Peter Thomas thinks that the Ns may have eloped in pairs and become Ms. He also points out that if you top up your N with gin, you get a car that drinks and drives itself. More usefully, he recommends their use as clips for fixing telephone cable. Steve Warner provides the culinary tip of using spare Ns to store kitchen knives, blades down. Judith Holmes uses "n"s as spikes to pick up fallen leaves. She glues large "n"s in her work box to store cotton reels. They make good emergency staples, too.
Geoffrey Langley thinks the "n"s are being used as miniature croquet hoops. James Campbell thinks the Ns are being used as supports for the roof of the Millennium Dome. He says there's a 10 per cent tax on all printed material for this purpose which is snatching one letter from the word "millennium".
Tony Deaking thinks the "n"s vanished because they were n-pecked. He blames social n-gineering. Doug Whetherly thinks the female ones have gone to n-parties, while the males become non-n-tities. Phil Worth points out that there are seven of them in "Nineteen ninety-nine". Susann Tomes says: "All these `n's floating about in a disorderly manner obviously constitute n-tropy." She thinks that hymns, autumn or perhaps the damn Government have been putting "n"s where they are not needed. Probably the Minister for the N-vironment, unless there are more than three of them, in which case it's the Four-N Office.
Prizes to Susan Tomes, Norman Foster and Nigel Brown. Next week, fog. Meanwhile, we seek things to do with a staple remover. Ideas to: Creativity, The Independent, 1 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5DL. Chambers Dictionary prizes for the best.