Saturday, June 27, 2015



A lipogram is a form of constrained writing in which a letter or word is not allowed to be used.  Since the letter E is the most frequently used letter in the English language, and is contained in over 60 percent of all Engish words most authors who have attempted to write lipograms choose to attempt the feat by eliminating the use of the letter E.  (I guess it would be like trying to do math without the digit 1 – it makes me dizzy just thinking about it.)
The first example of this kind of writing constraint (that I am away of) was by the greek poet Tryphiodorus who wrote his epic poem Odyssey, chronicling the adventures of Ulysses, excluding a different letter of the alphabet from each of the 24 books.  Thus, the first book was written without alpha, the second without beta, and so on.
Below you will find lipograms by H. Ross Eckler.  The first version of “Mary had a little lamb” is unchanged, but each of the additional versions have been re-written eliminating some letter of the alphabet.

Mary Had a Lipogram
by A. Ross Eckler

Mary had a little lamb,
its fleece was white as snow
and everywhere that Mary went
the lamb was sure to go;
he followed her to school one day
that was against the rule
it made the children laugh and play
to see a lamb in school

Mary had a little lamb
with fleece a pale white hue
and everywhere that Mary went
the lamb kept her in view
to academe he went with her
illegal and quite rare
it made the children laugh and play
to view a lamb in there
(Written without the letter S.)

Polly owned one little sheep
its fleece shone white like snow
every region where Polly went
the sheep did surely go
he followed her to school one time
which broke the rigid rule
the children frolicked in their room
to see the sheep in school
(Written without the letter A.)

Mary owned a little lamb
its fleece was pale as snow
and every place its mistress went
it certainly would go
it followed Mary to class one day
it broke a rigid law
it made some students giggle aloud
a lamb in class all saw
(Written without the letter H.)

Mary had a pygmy lamb
his fleece was pale as snow
and every place where Mary walked
her lamb did also go
he came inside her classroom once
which broke a rigid rule
how children all did laugh and play
on seeing a lamb in school
(Written without the letter T.)

Mary had a tiny lamb
its wool was pallid as snow
and any spot that Mary did walk
this lamb would always go
this lamb did follow Mary to school
although against a law
how girls and boys did laugh and play
that lamb in class all saw
(Written without the letter E.)

I am not aware of any lipograms involving mathematics.  Image a mathematics text book where the problems (exercises) and their answers (solutions) were constrained.  In chapter 1 the homework problems and correct answers could not contain the digit 1.  And in chapter 2, the digit 2 was not allowed.  Actually, it might be best applied in a book on recreational mathematics.  Hmmm … I could be the first. 


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