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Lipogram

From Academic Kids

A lipogram (from Greek lipagrammatos, "missing letter") is a kind of writing with constraints or word game consisting of writing paragraphs or longer works in which a particular letter or group of letters is missing, usually a common vowel, the most common in English being e (McArthur, 1992). A lipogram author avoiding e then only uses the 25 remaining letters of the alphabet.

An example of a lipogram omitting "e" is this version of the preceding paragraph:

A lipogram is a kind of writing with constraints consisting of writing full paragraphs or books in which a particular symbol, such as that fifth symbol in talks in which it is most common, is missing. An author must submit to an awful handicap, allowing only consonants and A, I, O, and U; this is ordinarily a quorum of six fours and half of two.

Writing a lipogram is a trivial task for uncommon letters like Z, W, or X, but it is much more difficult for common letters like E. Writing this way is impractical, as the author must omit many ordinary words, resulting in stilted-sounding text that can be difficult to understand. Well-written lipograms are rare.

Examples of lipograms include the above example, Ernest Vincent Wright's Gadsby (1939), and Georges Perec's novel A Void (La Disparition) (1969), all of which are missing the letter E (the most common letter in both French and English). Perec was one of a group of French authors called Oulipo who adopted a variety of constraints in their work. Gilbert Adair's U.S. translation of La Disparition, titled A Void, stayed faithful to the spirit of the French original by not using the letter E either, thereby restricting the writer from employing such common English words as the and me.

Another recent example is Eunoia by Christian Bök in which each chapter is missing four of the five vowels. For example the fourth chapter does not contain any of the letters A, E, I or U. A typical sentence from this chapter is "Profs from Oxford show frosh who do post-docs how to gloss works of Wordsworth." Lipogrammatic writing which uses only one vowel is called univocalic (McArthur, 1992).

Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn is described as a "progressively lipogrammatic epistolary fable": the plot of the story deals with a small country which begins to outlaw the use of various letters, and as each letter is outlawed within the story, it is (basically) no longer used in the text of the novel. It is not purely lipogrammatic, however, because the outlawed letters do appear in the text proper from time to time (the characters being penalized with banishment for their use) and when the plot requires a search for pangram sentences, all twenty-six letters are obviously in use. Also, late in the text, the author begins using letters serving as homonyms for the omitted letters (i.e. "PH" in place of an "F", "G" in place of "C"), which some might argue is cheating.

Another interesting lipogram is that Edgar Allen Poe's The Raven has every letter in it except for Z.

References

fr:Lipogramme sl:lipogram

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