A pangram (Greek: παν γράμμα, pan gramma, "every letter") or holoalphabetic sentence is a sentence using every letter of a given 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 the 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 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. 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). Most such examples are not usually understood even by native English speakers, and so arguably are not really English pangrams. Perhaps the most easily understood perfect pangram is "Mr Jock, TV quiz PhD, bags few lynx"—but it includes three abbreviations (Mr, TV and PhD).
Here are some short pangrams using standard written English, not involving abbreviations or proper nouns:
- "Pack my box with five dozen liquor jugs." (32 letters)
- "Jackdaws love my big sphinx of quartz." (31 letters)
- "The five boxing wizards jump quickly." (31 letters)
- "How vexingly quick daft zebras jump!" (30 letters)
- "Bright vixens jump; dozy fowl quack." (29 letters)
- "Sphinx of black quartz, judge my vow." (29 letters)
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.
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 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.
In Chinese, the Thousand Character Classic is a 1000-character poem in which each character is used exactly once; however, 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 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.
Chris Patuzzo was able to reduce the problem of finding a self-enumerating pangram to the Boolean satisfiability problem. He did this by using a made-to-order Hardware description language as a stepping stone and then applied the Tseitin transformation to the resulting chip.
Pangrams in literature
The pangram "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog", and the search for a shorter pangram, are the cornerstone of the plot of the novel Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn. The search successfully comes to an end when the phrase "Pack my box with five dozen liquor jugs" is discovered.
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- 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
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- Malin, Irving (2003). «Ella Minnow Pea: A Novel In Letters». Review Of Contemporary Fiction 23 (2): 153.