Memories · Word of the week

Word of the week: pangram

Pangram is the kind of word you try to think of at times and can’t quite remember, rather like palindrome. A palindrome is a word or phrase that reads the same backwards and forwards (civic, Anna, noon or “Rats live on no evil star”). A pangram is a phrase that contains all the letters of the alphabet. The most famous one is “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog”.

I remember my father telling me about this when I was about 10. He told me the phrase was “The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy black dog”. I wrote it out, counted the letters and told him that there was no “s”. “Dogs, then,” he said. So I wrote it out again, “The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy black dogs”. I thought about it some more, went through the letters again and realized that the word “black” in the sentence wasn’t needed. All the letters in that word were already included elsewhere. Later I realized that you could make it shorter still by changing it to “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog”, or even “The quick brown fox jumps over lazy dogs”.

If you use a version of Microsoft Word earlier than Office 2007 you can get this sentence to appear repeatedly in a document as follows: on a new line, type “=rand()” (without the speech marks) and press Return. The phrase appears three times. If you want a specific number of occurrences type a number inside the parentheses, for example “=rand(50)” (followed by Return) would make the sentence appear 50 times.

In versions of Word from Office 2007 onwards “=rand()” brings up a few paragraphs about features of the product. It’s always been a useful training tip for inserting whole paragraphs of text into a document without having to type more than a few characters.

I came across another pangram when looking at some font samples a few years ago: “Jackdaws love my big sphinx of quartz”. I looked at it wondering if there was some hidden meaning, not realizing initially that it contained all the letters of the alphabet. I use it for typing practice these days, when testing out a keyboard. It only has 31 characters (excluding spaces), unlike the 33 characters in the shortest form involving that quick brown fox. “Bright vixens jump, dozy fowl quack” only has 29 characters and neatly incorporates a female fox, a bright one rather than a quick, brown one.




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