January 3, 2005

Lipogram Anyone?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jim @ 9:39 pm

What’s a lipogram, you ask? If you guessed that a lipogram is a letter full of fat, you would be wrong. If you guessed that a lipogram is a fat-measuring unit, you would wrong again. Fear not, for I am about to tell you what a lipogram is.

A lipogram is “a text that purposefully excludes a particular letter of the alphabet.”**

Ernest Vincent Wright, in 1939, created a 50,000-word story, entitled Gadsby, without once using the letter “E”. In order to ensure he would not inadvertently use the letter “E” in a word while creating the manuscript, the author tied down the letter “E” on a manual typewriter.

Some of the more interesting composition challenges he noted were: the inability to use many, if not most, of the past tenses of verbs to the extent that they end with “—ed,” and the unavailability of numbers between six and thirty. Pronouns also posed a problem “for such words as he, she, they, them, theirs, her, herself, myself, himself, yourself, etc., could not be utilized.”

Wright also pointed out that he did not accomplish this feat simply by dropping the “E’s” and replacing them with apostrophes. He stated, “All words used are complete; are correctly spelled and properly used. This has been accomplished through the use of synonyms; and, by so twisting a sentence around as to avoid ambiguity.”

The project took five and a half months.

So, let’s see…..

This group of words is my dumb stab at forming a basic lipogram, much as Wright did in authoring his fifty-thousand word story known as Gadsby. It ain’t easy! I cannot imagine writing an entire story like that, much less a 50,000 word story.

Clearly, the question is why would someone bust his ass for five and a half months to create such a thing?

Beats me. I don’t know.

**One has to wonder whether those zany Clinton staffers who removed all the “W” keys from the computer keyboards in the White House prior to the Bush’s moving in were merely fostering the creation of Presidential lipograms.

Thanks to The Presurfer for posting the Gadsby link and getting me to think about yet another goofy thing.

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