What is a Pangram?

Photo by jimmiehomeschoolmom - CC-BY

Photo by jimmiehomeschoolmom - CC-BY

A pangram is a sentence that contains all the letters of the alphabet. If no letters are repeated, the sentence is a perfect pangram. Perfect pangrams can be rather unsatisfying, because they need to make use of obscure words, abbreviations, slang or proper nouns. Here are a few perfect pangrams:

  • Cwm fjord bank glyphs vext quiz
  • Quartz glyph job vex'd cwm finks
  • Mr. Jock, TV quiz PhD, bags few lynx
  • NBC glad. Why? Fox TV jerks quiz PM.
  • New job: fix Mr. Gluck's hazy TV, PDQ!

Pangrams longer than 26 characters allow the use of natural language. Many typists use the following sentence to “try out all the letters on a typewriter”:

  • The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog (35 letters)

That sentence is easy to say, and natural to type. Shorter pangrams might still be considered natural-sounding by some:

  • Pack my box with five dozen liquor jugs (32 letters)
  • The five boxing wizards jump quickly (31 letters)
  • Jackdaws love my big sphinx of quartz (31 letters)
  • Bright vixens jump; dozy fowl quack (29 letters)

Pangrams can be constructed in most other languages, although a policy needs to be adopted as to whether each kind of accented letter must also be included:

  • Filipino: Ang buko ay para sa tao dahil wala nang pwedeng mainom na gatas
  • French: Portez ce vieux whisky au juge blond qui fume
  • Portugese: Um pequeno jabuti xereta viu dez cegonhas felizes

Some people like to coin pangrams from sets of codes:

  • US Airport codes: CMX, EYW, GJT, ORF, SUN, VDZ, KABQ, PHLI
  • Country codes: BD, CV, ET, FR, HN, IL, JP, KG, MX, QA, SO, UY, ZW

If that doesn't seem hard enough, you can construct a sentence that not only contains all the letters, but also tells how many of each letter it contains. These are called self-enumerating pangrams, and are also autograms because they describe their own content:

  • This Pangram contains four a's, one b, two c's, one d, thirty e's, six f's, five g's, seven h's, eleven i's, one j, one k, two l's, two m's, eighteen n's, fifteen o's, two p's, one q, five r's, twenty-seven s's, eighteen t's, two u's, seven v's, eight w's, two x's, three y's, & one z

Instead of constructing pangrams, you can look for them within literary works. These are called pangrammatic windows, and here's one of just 16 words from Lindencrone's 1912 book In the Courts of Memory:

  • …sang very well; but he just looked up into my face with a very quizzical expression…

One work in which you won't find a pangrammatic window is Wright's 1939 novel Gadsby, because that work is a lipogram—a work which is missing a letter. In the case of Gadsby, there is no letter “e” anywhere in its more than 200 pages, and yet the novel is grammatically correct and reads comfortably.


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