Creative Word Play: Pangrams

Challenging word exercises fill the time spent in waiting rooms and help hone writing skills.
Challenging word exercises fill the time spent in waiting rooms and help hone writing skills.
more creative pangrams. . .
more creative pangrams. . . | Source

Henry Pattengill is believed to have introduced "the quick brown fox" pangram to the world in 1885


My daughter's school years claimed countless hours of driving carpool, room-parenting, mentoring Girl Scouts, and attending school programs. Many, however, were spent in the waiting room of the orthodontist where my notepad and my pen became my best friends. It was also here where I began practicing holoalphabetic sentences called pangrams.

The word pangram comes from the Greek pan meaning "every" and gramma meaning "letter. It is a sentence which contains all the letters of the alphabet. In the history of typesetting, it was important to be able to see a complete representation of letters and their relationships to one another for books. As far back as the 16th century, early printers used false texts to demonstrate the look of letters on an entire page. One of the earliest ones read: "Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipscing elit, diam nonnumy eiusmod tempor incidunt ut labore et dolo.. " This Latin text is still used today as filler in graphic layouts and mock-ups where the designers and printers don't want meaningful content to interfere with visual content. Pangrams work similarly, but in a more concise way.

Often silly and illogical, pangrams are funny and entertaining to write. The most familiar example is "the quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog." In 1885, Henry R. Pattengill, Superintendent for St. Louis Schools and a well-known writer and innovative educator, is believed to have been the first to promote its use. "The following sentence makes a good copy for practice, as it contains every letter of the alphabet. . . ," he wrote in The Michigan State Moderator.

After the modern typewriter was invented in the late 1800s , it became important to check the typewriter key function for smooth, non-stick operation. "The quick brown fox" phrase was touted by Isaac Pitman in a 1903 issue of his Pitman's Phonetic Journal as a perfect typing aid. For decades, typing instructors had students practice this 35 letter pangram on their class typewriters. Linda Bronson featured the classic phrase in her 1888 stenography manual Illustrative Shorthand, and Robert Baden-Powell refers to it as a model for signaling in his 1908 publication Scouting for Boys. It is still used today in the field of graphic arts when designers who are choosing fonts wish to see a more realistic interaction between letters than just the layout of the alphabet. This popular pangram has also been used for practicing braille and sign language. Here are a few other examples of holoalphabetic sentences:

Quick blowing zephyrs vex daft Jim.

The Five Boxing Wizards jump quickly.

How razorback jumping frogs can level six piqued gymnasts.

Sphinx of black quartz judge my vow.





Tease your brain a little or a lot.

Source

There are so many fun ways to enjoy word play! Games can be written or spoken and played alone or in groups. They exercise our minds, teach us vocabulary, and hone our spelling skills. Crossword puzzles, Bookworm, anagrams, word searches, acrostics, Scrabble,Taboo, and even Hangman are some great games, yet pangrams go a step further in needing some continuity. This helps with creative writing.

This book is a must-have for word geeks!

Step up to a challenge by trying to make the shortest pangrams possible. I took liberties by weaving together a longer, yet sensible holoalphabetic sentence using words beginning with each letter of the alphabet. It involves even more creative writing skill but is easier than a technical pangram. Here is my example:

"Xerxes Marinopolis, an unfortunate victim of the dreaded phobic condition known as "sideodromophobia," reluctantly climbed aboard the 'Zephyr' which was bound for New York's Eastside and questioned his insane lack of good judgment." - Catherine Tally 2012

The hardest part is making a sensible sentence with only 6 vowels to 20 consonants- a troublesome ratio! Make it even more challenging by having as few repetitions as possible. I was able to get this one down to 33 words. It's really a fun exercise, certainly better than perusing expired magazines in a waiting room! I hope you'll give it a try. You may just end up laughing out loud!

A fun game for building vocabulary and spelling skills at brain-firing speed.

© 2013 Catherine Tally

More by this Author


Comments 30 comments

Millionaire Tips profile image

Millionaire Tips 3 years ago from USA

That does sound like an interesting activity - and it is great that it doesn't need any equipment besides pen and paper, so you can do it anytime you are stuck waiting for something or someone. Voted up.


cat on a soapbox profile image

cat on a soapbox 3 years ago from Los Angeles Author

Hello Millionaire Tips,

Thank you for stopping by to visit. I appreciate your comment and am glad you agree that paper and pen are great tools anywhere- esp. in the waiting room!


KrisL profile image

KrisL 3 years ago from S. Florida

This does look like fun! I'll have to try it. Voted "useful" and tweeted.


cat on a soapbox profile image

cat on a soapbox 3 years ago from Los Angeles Author

Hi KrisL,

I hope you have fun with it! Thanks for dropping by. . I appreciate both your enthusiastic comment and the vote. :)


kashmir56 profile image

kashmir56 3 years ago from Massachusetts

Hi my friend Cat great interesting article and pretty cool idea as well. It would be a fun thing to do to pass the time in a doctor's waiting room .

Vote up and more !!! Sharing !


cat on a soapbox profile image

cat on a soapbox 3 years ago from Los Angeles Author

Hi Tom,

Thank you for visiting today. I have always been a fan of word games and wanted to pass this exercise along. I am glad that you like it, and I hope you will give it a try. I hope that Spring is beginning to show promise over there on the East coast. Best wishes,

Cat :)


Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

Gypsy Rose Lee 3 years ago from Riga, Latvia

Thanks for sharing this really interesting article. I love word games and I remember typing that fox phrase in typing class.


SidKemp profile image

SidKemp 3 years ago from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach)

Hi Cat, my wife KrisL and tried this over dinner. I'm voting the hub up and "funny."

Being a geek I built an Excel spreadsheet to verify pangrams.

We came up with this one: "Quick, wax Zoe the pig, move faster, jump boldly now."

Email me if you want to see the spreadsheet.


cat on a soapbox profile image

cat on a soapbox 3 years ago from Los Angeles Author

Hi Sid, How nice to find that you and KrisL are a not only a couple but a pangram team! You guys came up with a great one with only 33 letters and obviously had a lot of fun doing it. It makes my day!) No need to send me the spreadsheet though. I hope you'll play with pangrams again. Thanks for sharing your very clever and funny one. What an image! I appreciate the comment and the votes.

My best,

Cat :)


cat on a soapbox profile image

cat on a soapbox 3 years ago from Los Angeles Author

Hi Rasma,

It's always nice to see that you've dropped by! Thank you for the nice comment.;)


Monis Mas profile image

Monis Mas 3 years ago

Very cool idea. I may have to try it sometime.


cat on a soapbox profile image

cat on a soapbox 3 years ago from Los Angeles Author

Hello MoniMas,

Thank you for stopping by to read and comment. I always appreciate seeing you here!

I really do hope you give it a try. It's a good mental exercise.

My best to you,

Cat:)


b. Malin profile image

b. Malin 3 years ago

Hi Cat,

A very Interesting Hub, and a clever is way to keep the mind alert, especially when one is stuck in the Doctor's office... the brain is a terrible thing to waste!


cat on a soapbox profile image

cat on a soapbox 3 years ago from Los Angeles Author

Thank you. I always have a small notepad handy! I will continue to wish you a full recovery in time to savor the beauty of Spring. It's always nice to see you here,

My best,

Cat :)


Nellieanna profile image

Nellieanna 3 years ago from TEXAS

It's 12:30 AM Easter morning - so I'm not going to sample the exercise now but I will! I love word games and challenges. Thank you for bringing this one to my attention. I can certainly see how it would benefit kids in school, too!


DzyMsLizzy profile image

DzyMsLizzy 3 years ago from Oakley, CA

Ah, and fellow word-a-holic that I am, I had to challenge MYself to read your sentence out of sequence, finding all of the alphabet in its correct order. LOL

This sounds like fun. I do think that "Bookworm" is my all-time favorite word game--at least, it has the most extensive dictionary. So many other word games reject perfectly good words with "not in the dictionary" ... "Word Twist" being one such game.

I like Scrabble, but prefer the old-fashioned board game to the electronic version, because then you can use "House Rules" to suit any situation or group of players; for example, making ALL geography place name words, instead of forbidding proper nouns. ;-)

One of my favorite pen-and-paper waiting room games is to riffle through the outdated magazines only long enough to find a nice polysyllabic word, which I then place at the top of the page. The object is to find as many words as possible using only the letters in the "seed word," and only as many times per word as they appear in the seed word.

Your game is a new twist, though, and I must try it out the next time I'm stuck waiting interminably in some boring space. Voted up, interesting and 'funny' only because 'fun' is not on the list. ;-) Also shared.


cat on a soapbox profile image

cat on a soapbox 3 years ago from Los Angeles Author

Hello Nellieanna,

It's my pleasure to inspire an interest in word games. You will undoubtedly come up with something very clever! I hope you will share it for fun.

My best,

Cat :)


cat on a soapbox profile image

cat on a soapbox 3 years ago from Los Angeles Author

Hello DzMsLizzy,

It's so nice to be in the good company of another wordaholic! Ever since elementary school when my 3rd grade teacher started training us to find words within words, I have enjoyed word play. As my vocabulary expanded, it was scrabble, the board game- then Bookworm on computer. I never thought to entertain myself w/ making words from a polysyllabic seed word while waiting for an appointment but think it is a brilliant idea!! I will do this. Thanks for dropping by to read and comment. I appreciate your thoughts and suggestions. My best to you, as always,

Cat :)


Nellieanna profile image

Nellieanna 3 years ago from TEXAS

Thank you, Catherine. Now MzLizzy has opened another Pandora's Box of challenging wordgame ideas. I like the personal approach, too, - coming up with one's own games and doing them for one's own amusement, brain workout and time-filler in otherwise empty moments!


cat on a soapbox profile image

cat on a soapbox 3 years ago from Los Angeles Author

Ladies,

When words are your passion, the possibilities are endless! What a joy to be in such good company. :)


AudreyHowitt profile image

AudreyHowitt 3 years ago from California

I never took typing--and so did not have that initial experience---but this sounds like fun!! We are a family of wordies


cat on a soapbox profile image

cat on a soapbox 3 years ago from Los Angeles Author

Hi Audrey,

Good to hear from you! I tried and failed miserably at typing because I had settled too comfortably into my hunt and peck style -haha. Im sure I am the obvious dinosaur on the computer keyboard, but I can confidently compete w/ vocab and spelling! I hope you will try this and share it too. Thanks for popping in to read and comment. :)


DzyMsLizzy profile image

DzyMsLizzy 3 years ago from Oakley, CA

Ha! I did it! Tried it the other day in doc's waiting area...don't know if I cheated, though, as I used more than 26 words, using some letters more than once....and I can't say it makes a whole lot of sense; it sort of does, and sort of doesn't. My husband read it and said, "Reminds me of a politician--using a whole lot of words to say nothing." LOL


cat on a soapbox profile image

cat on a soapbox 3 years ago from Los Angeles Author

Hi DzyMsLizzy, I'm so glad! I hope it was a fun challenge. :) My husband wasn't too impressed w/ mine either and would probably have appreciated it more if he had tried it himself! haha. As you practice more, you will be able to reduce the number of letters used more than once. Sid Kemp and KrisL made a true pangram sentence that was really challenging. See his comment here.


DzyMsLizzy profile image

DzyMsLizzy 3 years ago from Oakley, CA

Oh--I may have completely misunderstood--I thought the idea was to make a sentence, each word of which began with a different letter of the alphabet....instead, it seems only that all the letters must be contained within the sentence, regardless of how many or how few words! I'll have to try again. ;-)


cat on a soapbox profile image

cat on a soapbox 3 years ago from Los Angeles Author

I prefer the way you did it because it offers more options and doesn't make my brain hurt as much-lol. The example in my hub is the same kind. A true pangram is a single short sentence using each letter of the alphabet . Either way, it is a fun word game. :)


SidKemp profile image

SidKemp 3 years ago from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach)

Cat - thanks for your inspiration. I've just written my own hub with variations on the pangram game, and linked to this hub there (http://sidkemp.hubpages.com/hub/PanGram-Geek-Games... I'm starting to stop being too serious.


cat on a soapbox profile image

cat on a soapbox 3 years ago from Los Angeles Author

Sid- It makes me smile to hear that I've inspired you to "lighten up" and have fun with word games. Thank you for the link to your new hub. I'm anxious to check it out!

My best,

Cat :)


AudreyHowitt profile image

AudreyHowitt 2 years ago from California

Fun, fun, fun--and it does tease my brain--a lot!


cat on a soapbox profile image

cat on a soapbox 2 years ago from Los Angeles Author

Good to hear, Audrey! Thank you for stopping by.

My best,

Cat :)

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.


    Click to Rate This Article
    working