The brown fox and other pangrams

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The Chandler House Alphabet / Pangram

I wanted to write a column on typeface, partly because I know nothing about the history of typography, and partly because I find the long list of fonts on my computer fascinating. Baskerville. Helvetica. Luminari. Tahoma. But when I started googling the topic, the multitude of articles and countless technical terms scared me off. However, one word caught my eye. Pangram. It looked familiar, but I had to look it up.

A pangram is a sentence containing every letter of the alphabet. (Greek: pan gramma, “every letter”.) The one pangram we all know, commonly used for touch-typing practice, is The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog. This phrase dates back to an article which appeared in The Boston Journal in 1885.

Dozens of other newspapers published the sentence over the next few months, all using the version of the sentence starting with “A” rather than “The”. A few years later, in the book Illustrative Shorthand, the phrase was changed to THE quick brown fox… There are many known pangrams in English. Glib jocks quiz nymph to vex dwarf (28 letters). Or this one: Sphinx of black quartz, judge my vow (28 letters). Here’s a longer one: Sympathizing would fix Quaker objectives (36 letters).

The following sentence is legitimate, but it feels a bit like cheating: “B, C, F, G, H, I, J, K, M, O, P, Q, U, V, W, X, Y, and Z are letters” (31). A perfect pangram contains every letter of the alphabet only once and can be considered an anagram of the alphabet. No perfect pangram is known that does not use abbreviations, such as Mr Jock, TV quiz PhD, bags few lynx (26 letters).

One can create pangrams in other languages as well. In Afrikaans the letters c, q, x, and z are seldom used, but the following sentence, which I found on the question-and-answer site, Quora, contains all 26 letters of the alphabet: Jong Xhosas of Zoeloes wil hou by die status quo vir chemie in die Kaap.

See if you can do better!

Albé Grobbelaar