Pangram Word Games
A pangram is a sentence that contains all the letters in the alphabet. Try being a word geek: Making pangrams - and variations - can be a lot of fun!
So, if you need to take a break from being serious and working all the time, try a pangram!
(I should look into a mirror and say that 100 times!)
Looking for a fun activity - alone, as a couple, or with friends - that doesn't require an iPad? Here are a set of games that can be done with pen and paper. They're all silly and fun. Some are intense challenges. Others are laugh-out-loud pure silliness. What floats your boat?
My wife and I get ourselves laughing with these. They're great for crowds who love Scrabble or Boggle or Pictionary, too. Or maybe you're a solo pangrammer!
Silliness and Gratitude
I want to take a moment to thanks three Hubbers for inspiring this hub. First of all, Cat on a Soapbox got me and my wife started playing with pangrams and laughing with her hub Challenge Yourself: Try a Pangram. Second, Kevin Peter got me searching for short pangrams by asking the question: Can a sentence be made by using all the letters in the alphabet? Last but not least, Simone Smith reminds me that silliness is part of life balance by writing about both Finding Meaning in Life and Nerd Cupcakes.
The theoretical, ideal short pangram would be only 26 letters long. It would contain each letter only once. But, so far, like the Loch Ness Monster, this ideal pangram has not been irrefutably sighted.
In fact, it is very hard to make a pangram under 40 letters. So that is the first game, with credit to Cat on a Soapbox, and her article, Challenge Yourself, Try a Pangram. Here are four variations on the game:
- Starter. Try to create pangrams with fewer than 45 letters, not counting spaces or punctuation.
- Tough. Make pangrams that have 45 letters or fewer, but sound ordinary, not ridiculous or silly.
- Intense. Make pangrams that are 40 characters or less, and try to reduce silliness.
- Super-intense. Try to make a pangram as short as you possibly can.
The Shortest Pangram Ever
The classic pangram used to test typewriters is, "The quick brown fox jumps over a lazy dog." I thought it was used to test typists - can you type every letter? I've also heard it tests the typewriter - Do all the letters work? Both, I guess. Now, use it to test your brain!
"The quick brown fox jumps over a lazy dog" and its sister, "A quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog" are each only 33 letters long (not counting spaces and punctuation).
One way to create a short pangram is to take an existing one and try to shorten it. Well, I worked on this one. I try not to get proud too often, but I couldn't help feeling some glee when I came up with, "Quick, fox, jump over the lazy brown dogs." Got it! 32 letters long, as far as I know, a new world record.
For super geeks: If you feel this pangram is unrealistic because you can't give an order to an animal, then consider Fox to be a person, like Michael J. Fox, and capitalize: "Quick, Fox, jump over the lazy brown dogs."
I'm also working to create the shortest pangram I can,not based on an earlier pangram. My best effort so far is, "Bo, jump, take the cold wavy strafing quiz next." Okay, it doesn't make a lot of sense, but it is only 37 letters long.
As happy as I was coming up with these short pangrams, I'll be happier if you come up with even shorter ones, and post them in the comments! However long they are, I'd love to see your best efforts.
As part of writing this hub, I applied for a record in the Guinness Book of World Records on May 10, 2013. I'll know if they accept it in a couple of months. If they do, then you have a chance to beat my record and get a Guinness record of your own!
Pangram? What's a pangram?
Movie, TV, and Literary Pangrams
We all know that, in English, some letters, like W, Q and Z, are rare.
Those very same letters are also popular when writers create fantasy and science fiction worlds. In fact, they're popular exactly because they sound rare and odd in English.
Let's use that for pangrams. Pick your favorite universe - real or fantasy - and make pangrams from it. Here are some examples and ideas to get you started.
Star Trek Pangrams
With character names like Worf, Quark, and Dax, Star Trek: The Next Generation seems like a great place for pangrams. These are sheer fun - make up as many as you can. You can write any sentence, or come up with descriptions of imaginary episodes, or write lines that might appear in an episode script. Here are two to get you started:
- Episode teaser: Worf, Quark, Zog, Jake, and Dax go back in time to help save you and me.
- Script line: "Quark, fix two raktajinos cheaply, and have Zog bring them to the holosuite."
On script lines, it's fun if they are believable. For example, Quark does serve raktajinos (Klingon coffee), Zog is a waiter in his bar, and drinks can be delivered to his holosuites.
People of an older generation (or retro fans) may try Star Trek pangrams from the original series. But it might be tough: Kirk, Spock, McCoy, and Scottie are all full of Cs and Ks. (Maybe Gene Rodenberry, in creating the show, had an unconscious yearning for names not like his own, which is full of soft sounds.)
Lord of the Rings Pangrams
My wife and I have played Lord of the Rings 20 questions for 30 years - you should try it. Now we can try pangrams, too. Nazgul is a good word to start with, don't you think?
The End of All the Multiverses is the Limit
You can make pangrams in any world.
Pick your own universe, and get pangramming. Like Star wars, Jabba the Hutt will get you started. And you're not limited to fantasy and science fiction. How about Dickens or Shakespeare?
Puzzling Out Your Pangrams
Suppose you've just written your first pangram, only you're not sure you've gotten every letter? You can work it out with paper and pencil. Just write down every letter of the alphabet. Then walk through your pangram, letter by letter, crossing off each one as you go. If, when you're done, every letter of the alphabet is crossed off, then you've made a pangram.
If you're aiming for a short pangram, then count the pangram three times, counting letters only (not spaces or punctuation. Or, underneath each word, you can write down how many letters long that word is, then add up all the numbers. (See Table #1 for an example.)
Table #1: Easy: Count the Letters in Your Pangram
If you actually enjoy all that counting and checking, that might mean you're more of a nerd than a geek. So, to help you out, I called on my inner techie geek (who's a bit rusty) and created a pangram checker in Excel. I can't upload an excel file to this site. But if you combine Table #2 and the instructions below it, you can re-create the spreadsheet. Or just email me, and I'll be happy to send it to you.
And if there's an iPhone App programmer geek out there anywhere who wants to collaborate on a pangram for the iPhone app, please get in touch!
Creating Your Excel Pangram Checker
Follow these instructions and refer to Table #2 (below) to create your own Excel pangram checker. Steps noted in Table # refer to the steps below. It's easy (if you're a geek, not a nerd).
Table #2: Excel Pangram Checker
*Put Your Pangram Here*
*Type Your Pangram Again, with no spaces or punctuation*
Steps to create your pangram spreadsheet:
- Open a blank Excel worksheet, give it a name like "pangram checker" and save the file.
- Create the first row. In cell A1, write "Pangram"; A2, Length; A3, start the alphabet going across, from A to Z.
- Leave the cells in column A, under the heading Pangram, blank for now. Make the column wide enough to hold a whole pangram, as all pangrams will be typed in this column.
- In cell B2, the first length formula in column B, write the formula =LEN($A2). (Enter the formula exactly as you see it here.)
- Copy the cell B2 down column B, to say cell B100. That sets up column B to show the length (LEN) of column A, where you type your pangram.
- In Cell C2, under the letter "a", type the formula =IF(ISNUMBER(SEARCH(C$1,$A2)),"",C$1)
- Copy Cell C2 across, pasting it into all of row 2, underneath every letter of the alphabet.
- Copy the entire range C2 to AE2 (just under the whole alphabet) and paste it down to all rows through row 100.
Voilà! Your spreadsheet is done. That weird formula in Step 6 tells Excel: If the letter at the top of this column is in the pangram in Column A, leave this cell blank. Otherwise, put the letter from the top of this column in the cell.
How to use your pangram checker:
- Write your pangram, words, spaces, and punctuation, in any cell of Column A. You will see the sentence length in column B. If all the cells below A to Z are blank, you've written a good pangram with all the letters of the alphabet. But if any letters of the alphabet are missing from your pangram, you will see them along the row. Change your pangram to add those letters. As each letter on the right, under the alphabet, vanishes from the row, you know you've got it in your pangram. When the whole row under the alphabet is blank, your pangram is complete.
- write your pangram again, in the next row down. This time, leave out all spaces and punctuation - letters of the alphabet only, like this: quickfoxjumpoverthelazybrowndogs . Then look at column B, length. You will see how long your pangram is. If its under 32, you may have a new world record!
Since We're Being Silly . . .
The graphics for this hub were made at www.wordle.net, a fun, free utility that lets you create graphics from bunches of text or from a web page. The more times a word appears, the larger it shows up in the Wordle, and you have all kinds of choices for color and font and arrangement. The first Wordle was made from my world's shortest pangram. The one just above was made from my article on hubpages about saganaki, a flaming greek cheese dish.
More Pangram Challenges
For those of us who bore easily, it is just as easy to develop new pangram challenges. Cat on a Soapbox suggests one: What if we work with words and sentences, instead of letters in sentences? She suggests creating a sentence 26 words long, where each word begins with a different letter of the alphabet. Or, try this: the same idea, but each word ends with a different letter of the alphabet.
People have pointed out that there are a few words in the English language which have all five vowels in order: facetious and abstemious are two of them. How about if we try to create a sentence with as many of the letters of the whole alphabet in order? I haven't done it yet. But "Abracadabra effort . . ." is a good start. It has the first six letters (a, b, c, d, e, f) in order (not counting repeats, with only the letter "r" out of order.
Or how about a double pangram: Two of each letter in one to three sentences? Or a triple pangram?
The variations are endless. I hope you'll come along and play.
What's your favorite?
Whatever you try, I hope you'll come share the results in the comments below. Maybe you'll even come up with some new games and challenges we can all try!
Sid Kemp (author) from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach) on June 20, 2013:
Thanks. Be sure to come back and bring a pangram when you do!
ocfireflies from North Carolina on June 20, 2013:
Love all word games. Will have to try this one out. Excellent Hub! Voted Up!
Sid Kemp (author) from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach) on June 11, 2013:
We would play geography in the car - name a place, and then the next person has to name another place that begins with the last letter of the place you just named. Occasionally, we would play license place games. I remember one time, we were driving through New England, and we played a competitive livestock counting game: 1 point for a sheep.2 for a cow, three for a horse. I was a teenager competing against a 7-year-old, and, luck of the draw, winning. I said to her, But whoever sees a moose automatically wins. It was such a remote possibility, but it kept her from giving up.
Minutes later, we passed a huge lit sign, vertical letters M-O-O-S-E on her side of the road. She won!
Lois Ryan from Upstate NY originally from Long Island on June 11, 2013:
My favorite type of game while going on road trips. My brother and I used to do the alphabet game by starting with the letter A and looking for a sign with that letter. We made variations where the word had to start with that letter to make it more challenging. Excellent hub
Sid Kemp (author) from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach) on June 02, 2013:
Thanks, Cat on a Soapbox; your quick zesty, friendly comment makes me want to jump, giggle, and wave. (Yes, that was a pangram!
Be sure to check back in a month or two: I'll add an update when I hear from Guinness about the world record.
Catherine Tally from Los Angeles on June 02, 2013:
You've taken the pangram to another great level of fun and challenge! This hub is a winner throughout including the catchy title and appealing graphics. I am just getting around to checking it out after being pulled away from HP for a couple of weeks . Thank you for giving me an honorable mention!
Voting way UP and linking to it.
Sid Kemp (author) from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach) on May 14, 2013:
Pangrams are really fun in pairs and groups. You can make sure it is cooperative, not competitive. Kids can learn teamwork, as well has having fun with language and getting very silly. (My wife and I feel like kids when we play!)
Deonne Anderson from Florence, SC on May 14, 2013:
You have introduced me to a new type game. I love cross word puzzles, mind games and scrabble. I will try doing Pangrams. I am excited that I will have a new activity for the adolescents in my therapy group this Friday. I believe that the kids will love doing Pangrams. Good luck on being listed in the Guinness book of records! It's great that you have such a challenging past time.