Trivia 041: Foxes vs Sphinxes

In the last trivia post I made, I discussed lipograms, writing something that does not contain a specific letter (or letters). Fans of etymology will note that the word “lipogram” contains the Greek (via PIE) roots for “to leave” and “letter”. Well then, how about the opposite? If we had all the letters, that would be a “pangram“. Similarly to lipograms, creating a sentence that utilizes every single letter can be rather tricky. Some letters, like ‘e’, ‘t’, and ‘s’, are no problem. Others, such as ‘j’ are much less common in the English language.

Perhaps the most well-known pangram is the sentence “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.” Short, simple, to the point. But honestly it’s a little boring. Why say that when you could say “The five boxing wizards jumped quickly.” Here we see that “quick” and “jump” are two pretty common words to use for these sentences. They’re pretty easy to fit into lots of sentences, and take care of two of the trickiest letters – ‘q’ and ‘j’. But this one is a little more nonsensical. Your pangram gets bonus points if it is something you could see yourself reasonably saying.

Something I find myself in a position to say quite frequently is my favorite pangram – Sphinx of black quartz, judge my vow. I mean, how cool does that sound. Plus, it’s four letters shorter than the more common fox sentence. Another good pangram that you might whip out on occasion is “Amazingly few discotheques provide jukeboxes.”

Now, the lamest pangram I’ve come across has to be this one: “This pangram contains four As, one B, two Cs, one D, thirty Es, six Fs, five Gs, seven Hs, eleven Is, one J, one K, two Ls, two Ms, eighteen Ns, fifteen Os, two Ps, one Q, five Rs, twenty-seven Ss, eighteen Ts, two Us, seven Vs, eight Ws, two Xs, three Ys, & one Z.” This is such a huge cop-out. Literally ‘d’, ‘j’, ‘k’, ‘q’, and ‘z’ are only in there because they got listed. To be fair, this was created as a test for a computer to count the letters in a string it was creating. So there is a use case for it. Just please don’t try to pass it off as a reasonable pangram.

So if you don’t want to fail your homework by simply listing letters, but instead want extra credit, you could try for a perfect pangram. This is a sentence which contains every letter, but only once. For example, “Mr Jock, TV quiz PhD, bags few lynx.” Now this works, and is sensible, but it does use some proper nouns. Can we do it without? Well, it turns out that we can, and even using legal Scrabble words! “Crwth vox zaps qi gym fjeld bunk.” Now there are probably a few words in there you don’t recognize. It roughly breaks down into “The sound of a Celtic violin strikes an eastern spiritual forces-focused fitness center situated in a barren plateau of Scandinavia.” I promise, though, that all of those words do appear in the Scrabble dictionary. And if that’s not definitively English, I don’t know what is. It’s a bit easier to create perfect pangrams in languages with more characters. For example, there is a Japanese poem known as Iroha, which is a whole poem that is a perfect pangram.

Now, your homework assignment for the week is to create a pangram of your very own. You get bonus points if it’s a perfect pangram. However, I do not recommend trying to create one without perfect nouns. It is very difficult to create a perfect pangram in English that is also a legible sentence without the use of perfect nouns. If you know any other languages, feel free to try it in those languages as well.

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