hey pretty

Ceci n'est pas une "dating blog."

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

The Letter of the Day is Not "E"

T sent me the following from wordsmith.org this morning:

This week's theme: words about words.

lipogram (LIP-uh-gram) noun

A piece of writing that avoids one or more letters of the alphabet.

[From Greek lipo- (lacking) + gram (something written).]

Today's word in Visual Thesaurus:

In spite of what it sounds like, a lipogram is not a message with a kiss.
Lipogram is a work written with a constraint.

Imagine you've just started your great epic novel and one of the keys on
your keyboard is broken. It would be trivial to manage without a Q, X,
or Z, but writing without a single E -- ah, that'd be some challenge. If
it sounds undoable, consider that whole books have been written without an E, the most used letter in the English language. Without an E, one has to give up some of the most common pronouns such as he, she, we, me, and so on. What's more, even the article "the" is barred.

Coming back to books written without Es (I'm sure writing them is not something everyone can do with ease), Ernest Vincent Wright's 1939
novel Gadsby is written without the second vowel. One of the best known
E-less works is Georges Perec's lipogrammatic French novel, La Disparition
(The Disappearance). Its plot is full of wordplay, puzzles, and other
word-fun. For example, a character is missing eggs, or is unable to remember
his name because it needs E in the spelling.

Though it may be hard to believe considering the restriction under which it is written, the novel is said to be quite engrossing. Apparently, many reviewers were not even aware that a special constraint was used in writing it. After writing the novel, Perec faced a protest from the A, I, O, and U keys on his keyboard that they had to do all the work and E was leading an e'sy life. So Perec had no choice but to write a short work called Les Revenentes, where he put to work all those idle Es: the
only vowel used was E.

If that doesn't sound incredible enough, here is more. La Disparition has been translated into English as "A Void" by Gilbert Adair. Of course, the translation also doesn't have any E in it. In case you have not already noticed, both the phrases "La Disparition" and "A Void" have only vowels A, I, and O in them, same as in the word "lipogram". And Void's protagonist is named Anton Vowl.

One can write numbers from zero, one, two,... onwards, and not use the A key on the keyboard until reaching thousand. As for the literary merit of that composition, I'm not very certain.

-Anu Garg (gargATwordsmith.org)

"Go on, r*ad my lipogram!"
Rod*rick Nord*ll; What's Missing From This Story?; The Christian
Monitor (Boston, Massachusetts); Oct 31, 2002.


Fascinating, no? Can you go all day without aid from that sign that follows D?


Blogger Michael J. West said...

Actually, I doubt that I can post fully lucid thoughts in so much as your blog without using that particular symbol. Although I do want to look at said books, which totally avoid this symbol.

I know it's childish, but I'd point out that you can still say many cuss words, including "fuck," with this limitation.

In addition, as both you and I know, a small supply of words in our nation's oral tradition of communication contain only consonant sounds, which might significantly assist in omission of this crucial glyph in ordinary discussion.

Damn. This post is in surplus of 100 words, but contains not that sign that follows D. Not bad, huh?
Unmistakably, though, I cannot surpass this oh-so-narrow word count.

3:39 PM  
Blogger Hey Pretty said...

Right on!

Dropping the no E rule for a sec: My mom just reminded me of a book called Ella Minnow Pea about a fictional society that gradually limits the use of certain letters in the alphabet until there are hardly any left that people are allowed to write with our speak. It's a parable about censorship. Highly entertaining...

4:20 PM  
Anonymous e2 said...

that's right ladies...that smarteypants above, Michael J. West, is OFF THE MARKET. :-)

4:27 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home