People spend their lives trying to explain this political town, to itself and to the world. But no one has ever satisfactorily explained the basis of the political ego -- no one, that is, until Judy Hallett of Bethesda.

Judy rang me up the other day and blithely announced: "Did you know that 20 of the 100 U.S. Senators have surnames that begin with A, B or C?"

With my customary eloquence, I replied: "Um, uh, no."

"Well, it's true," Judy said. "And there must be something very powerful in this. Think of it. These are people who always got their TV Guides in the mail earlier than anyone else. As kids, they were always at the head of the line, so they got their confidence higher. And now look at them."

Little did Judy know how accurate her discovery turns out to be.

Not only are 20 percent of U.S. Senators surnamed A, B or C, but so are 36 percent of sitting American governors (18 of 50).

The phenomenon holds for Presidents of the United States (seven of 40, or 17.5 percent). And for United States Representatives (82 of 435, or 18.9 percent).

Being a lifelong middle-of-the-alphabeter, I couldn't begin to explain why this would be. So I asked a few friends and colleagues who are As, Bs or Cs to see if they could. A sampler of replies:

John Cook of Chevy Chase: "A politician can't be a politician if he doesn't come in first. I think that being at the head of the lunch line in first grade must have a great deal to do with it. A taste of the fruit, as it were."

Charles Allen of Takoma Park: "I am not a politician, and have absolutely no desire to become one. But I still remember being the first kid in line in kindergarten, just ahead of Mary Allen. 'You're the leader,' the teacher told me. Obviously, every November, a bunch of people still hear those words ringing in their ears."

However, there is a flip side to that early time in the spotlight. John Butler, a Washington Post editor, describes it this way:

"My teachers often used an alphabetical roll . . . . to pose questions. That means I was given more opportunity to display my knowledge and/or ignorance. This has led to my personality being somewhat nervous and reticent."

He'll never be a politician, will he?

Paul Berg, another editor hereabouts, notes that there is jealousy even within the ranks of the alphabetical early birds.

"In college," Paul reports, "I shared an apartment with Baden, Breece and Chad. Chad was somewhat annoyed."

Yet another Post editor, Hank Burchard, sees a dark lining to the cloud.

"I'd just as soon Mother had married Zigowitz the intern," Hank confesses. "What alphabetical precocity has gotten me is mainly getting called on early -- in ballet class, on the days when I wore both left feet; in school, when I hadn't read the assignment; in the Army, when they wanted KPs . . . .

"I am persuaded that, while I get all my junk mail, somewhere around H or J the mailman starts stuffing it into storm sewers. Sure, it {having a B surname} has changed my life. If I'd been back there with the Ks or Ls, I might have had time to gather my wits. I coulda been a contender."

Is there any predictive magic in The Hallett Alphabetical Theorem? None that I can discover. Lots of As, Bs and Cs have lost elections, and doubtless lots more will.

But if Bruce Babbitt, Joseph Biden and George Bush are looking for a little good news in the thicket of Simons and Jacksons and Doles, they've just found it.

Once again, evidence that English is too important (and too fragile) to be left in the hands of the advertising industry.

Ruth S. Blau of Arlington passes along a flier she picked up at a branch of First American Bank. It's designed to persuade students to become customers.

"Let Your Student Prove They Are Responsible Now With a First American VISA or MasterCard," the copy reads.

Ruth wonders if anyone in the ad agency "passed high school English. Or did First American commit this atrocity all by theirself?"

Nothing wonderful about graffiti on buses, but you do have to chuckle about the item John Marshall saw magic-markered inside a D8 the other day.

"HAVING A BAD DAY?" it asked, rhetorically. "JUST REMEMBER: YOU COULD BE ON I-66."

From Bill Coplin:

Financial success is terrific. You meet such interesting relatives.