Al­pha­bet soup? Pick a pan­gram

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - STYLE - BER­NADETTE KINLAW

Peo­ple who have taken typ­ing classes are fa­mil­iar with the sen­tence “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.”

We use the sen­tence be­cause it contains ev­ery let­ter of the al­pha­bet, giv­ing even your pinkies a work­out. Many peo­ple know this. But do they know that this kind of sen­tence is called a pan­gram? I just learned that. The word comes from the Greek for “all let­ters.”

Other pan­grams ex­ist. Those who study such things seem to think that com­ing up with sen­tences that con­tain only 26 let­ters would be cool. They’ve only been able to find non­sen­si­cal sen­tences:

Mr. Jock, TV quiz PhD, bags few lynx. Cwm fjord-bank glyphs vext quiz.

But sen­tences slightly longer are also good for prac­tic­ing those key­strokes. Here are a cou­ple that I like:

Pack my box with five dozen liquor jugs. Sixty zip­pers were quickly picked from the wo­ven jute bag.


The word “uni­sex” is a puz­zle. As an ad­jec­tive or de­scrip­tive term, it means suit­able for males and fe­males.

When ex­pec­tant par­ents don’t know whether they’re ex­pect­ing a boy or girl, they may re­ceive many yel­low baby items. Yel­low is con­sid­ered a uni­sex color for ba­bies.

Nor­mally, “uni” means “one.” Unique. One of a kind.

Uni­cel­lu­lar. Hav­ing one cell.

Uni­corn. A crea­ture with one horn. Unite. To make one.

Uni­cy­cle. A rid­ing de­vice with one wheel.

But uni­sex means it works for both sexes.

The Ox­ford Dic­tio­nar­ies web­site tries to ex­plain this by say­ing the word “uni­sex” is new. It wasn’t in use un­til the 1960s and be­gan as an in­for­mal word. It’s slightly closer to the word “uni­ver­sal,” per­tain­ing to all. Well, then, the word “uni­ver­sal” would have worked fine. Those crazy ’60s.


An­other mys­te­ri­ous crea­ture is the let­ter “h.” This fickle al­pha­betic unit is some­times spo­ken, some­times si­lent and some­times changes the sound of an­other let­ter. That’s power.

The “h” is spo­ken in these words: hor­rific hello hal­i­to­sis hick­ory

It’s si­lent in these words: honor homage hour

rhom­bus choir ache

When “h” is placed af­ter a “p,” the sound formed is “f.” Who thinks up these things?

The let­ters “gh” also some­times sounds like “f,” such as in the words “laugh” and “cough.”

In the United States, the herb you use for cook­ing has a si­lent “h.” But the “h” is spo­ken in the name “Herb.”

In Bri­tain, the cook­ing herbs are pro­nounced with the “h.”

I wasn’t sure whether it’s pro­nounced in the name “Herb” in Bri­tain be­cause I had never met a Bri­tish Herb. My Bri­tish friend William told me the “h” is spo­ken in that case. Though El­iza Dolit­tle, with her Cock­ney ac­cent, likely would call him “er­bert.”


This week’s big word is

“acheilous.” I found it in a list of words con­tain­ing the five vow­els –a, e, i, o, u – in al­pha­bet­i­cal or­der.

This crazy word is pro­nounced “ay-KI-lus,” and it’s a rare bi­o­log­i­cal term mean­ing lack­ing one or both lips.

Sources: Ox­ford Dic­tio­nar­ies Ox­ford Pocket Fowler’s Mod­ern English Us­age, Mer­riam-Web­ster, fun-with-words. com, Web­ster’s In­ter­na­tional Dic­tionary.

Arkansas Demo­crat-Gazette/NIKKI DAWES

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