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A pangram (Greek: παν γράμμα, pan gramma, "every letter") or holoalphabetic sentence for a given alphabet is a sentence using every letter of the alphabet at least once. Pangrams have been used to display typefaces, test equipment, and develop skills in handwriting, calligraphy, and keyboarding.
The best known English pangram is "The quick brown fox jumps over a lazy dog." It has been used since at least the late 19th century, was utilized by Western Union to test Telex / TWX data communication equipment for accuracy and reliability, and is now used by a number of computer programs (most notably the font viewer built into Microsoft Windows) to display computer fonts.
An example in another language is the German Victor jagt zwölf Boxkämpfer quer über den großen Sylter Deich, containing all letters used in German, including every umlaut ( ä, ö, ü) plus the ß. It has been used since before 1800.
Short pangrams in English are more difficult to come up with and tend to use uncommon words, because the English language uses some letters (especially vowels) much more frequently than others. Longer pangrams may afford more opportunity for humor, cleverness, or thoughtfulness. In a sense, the pangram is the opposite of the lipogram, in which the aim is to omit one or more letters. A perfect pangram contains every letter of the alphabet only once and can be considered an anagram of the alphabet; it is the shortest possible pangram. An example is the phrase "Cwm fjord bank glyphs vext quiz" (cwm, a loan word from Welsh, means a steep-sided valley, particularly in Wales).
Logographic scripts, that is, writing systems composed principally of logograms, cannot be used to produce pangrams in the literal sense, since they are radically different from alphabets or other phonetic writing systems. In such scripts, the total number of signs is large and imprecisely defined, so producing a text with every possible sign is impossible. However, various analogies to pangrams are feasible, including traditional pangrams in a romanization. In Japanese, although typical orthography uses kanji (logograms), pangrams are instead required to contain every kana (syllabic character) when written out in kana alone: the Iroha is a classic example.
In addition, it is possible to create pangrams that demonstrate certain aspects of Logographic characters.
- The Thousand Character Classic is a 1000-character poem in which each character is used exactly once, but it does not include all Chinese characters.
- The single character 永 (permanence) incorporates every basic stroke used to write Chinese characters exactly once, as described in the Eight Principles of Yong.
A self-enumerating pangram is a pangrammatic autogram, or a sentence that inventories its own letters, each of which occurs at least once. The first ever example was produced by Rudy Kousbroek, a Dutch journalist and essayist, who publicly challenged Lee Sallows, a British recreational mathematician resident in the Netherlands, to produce an English translation of his Dutch pangram. In the sequel, Sallows built an electronic "pangram machine", that performed a systematic search among millions of candidate solutions. The machine was successful in identifying the following 'magic' translation:
- 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.
Pangrams in literature
Pangram "The quick brown fox..." and searches of a shorter pangram are the cornerstone of a plot of the novel by Mark Dunn "Ella Minnow Pea". Search successfully comes to the end with finding "Pack my box with five dozen liquor jugs".
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- "Fun with Words: Pangrams". Rinkworks.com. Retrieved 2013-06-29.
- Dewdney, A.K. “Computer Recreations” Scientific American, October 1984, pp 18–22
- In Quest of a Pangram, Abacus (now defunct) Spring 1985, 2; 3: 22–40, pub. by Springer Verlag, New York
- In Quest of a Pangram (truncated version) in: A Computer Science Reader, pp 200–20, Edited by EA Weiss, Springer-Verlag, New York 1987, ISBN 0-387-96544-0
- Malin, Irving (2003). «Ella Minnow Pea: A Novel In Letters». Review Of Contemporary Fiction 23 (2): 153.