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.
Pangrams exist in practically every alphabet-based language. An example from German is Victor jagt zwölf Boxkämpfer quer über den großen Sylter Deich ("Victor chases twelve boxers across the Great Levee of Sylt"), which contains all letters, including every umlaut (ä, ö, ü) plus the ß. It has been used since before 1800.
In a sense, the pangram is the opposite of the lipogram, in which the aim is to omit one or more letters.
Short pangrams in English are more difficult to devise and tend to use uncommon words. Longer pangrams may afford more opportunity for humor, cleverness, or thoughtfulness.
The following are examples of pangrams that are shorter than "The quick brown fox jumps over a lazy dog" (which has 33 letters) and use standard written English without abbreviations or proper nouns:
- "Jived fox nymph grabs quick waltz." (28 letters)
- "Glib jocks quiz nymph to vex dwarf." (28 letters)
- "Sphinx of black quartz, judge my vow." (29 letters)
- "How vexingly quick daft zebras jump!" (30 letters)
- "The five boxing wizards jump quickly." (31 letters)
- "Pack my box with five dozen liquor jugs." (32 letters)
A perfect pangram contains every letter of the alphabet only once and can be considered an anagram of the alphabet. The only perfect pangrams of the English alphabet that are known either use abbreviations, such as "Mr Jock, TV quiz PhD, bags few lynx", Roman numerals such as “Fjord Nymphs XV beg a quick waltz”, or use words so obscure that the phrase is hard to understand, such as "Cwm fjord bank glyphs vext quiz", in which cwm is a loan word from the Welsh language meaning a steep-sided glaciated valley, and vext is an uncommon way to spell vexed.[failed verification] Other writing systems may present more options; the Iroha is a well-known perfect pangram of the Japanese syllabary.
Logographic scripts, or writing systems such as Chinese that do not use an alphabet but are composed principally of logograms, cannot produce pangrams in a literal sense. 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 can be made using every kana, or syllabic character. The Iroha is a classic example of a perfect pangram in non-Latin script.
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 Tseytin 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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- 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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