When you were first learning to type or read, did you ever hear the sentence, “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog?” If so, you’ve encountered at least one pangram in your life.
Pangrams, also known as holoalphabetic sentences, are a line or verse that contain all the letters in the alphabet.
The invention of the pangram dates back to the 19th century, when Western Union used them to test data communication equipment used for telegrams to ensure the machines were accurately and reliably processing different letters of the alphabet.
Pangrams became particularly popular with the advent of the typewriter because they encouraged typists to learn how to position their hands in order to reach all the letters.
In modern times, you might have seen a pangram – like the “quick brown fox” – on your computer to display all the letters of a typeface when selecting a font in a word processor or other software program.
Pangrams aren’t unique to English, serving the same functional purposes in virtually any language that uses the Roman alphabet. Logographic writing systems, however – such as Chinese or Japanese – generally can’t produce a pangram because the vast range of characters is more so used to represent different words instead of single letters.
While the “quick brown fox” is the most common pangram around, it’s not the shortest, clocking in at 35 letters. A perfect pangram consists of just one of each letter in the alphabet and is extremely rare. In fact, perfect pangrams are only achievable by using known abbreviations – such as Mr Jock, TV quiz, PhD – or by dipping into a very obscure pool of words, like cwm or waqf.
There are a handful of other pangrams out there are still shorter than “quick brown fox” but are a little more logical. The dramatic “Sphinx of black quartz, judge my vow” clocks in at 29 characters or the whimsical “The five boxing wizards jump quickly” gets the job done with 31 letters.
In general, longer pangrams tend to allow for a bit more personality – here are a few of our favorites for you to test out the next time you’re upping your typing skills.
Bright vixens jump; dozy fowl quack.
Jinxed wizards pluck ivy from the big quilt.
Two driven jocks help fax my big quiz.
Pack my box with five dozen liquor jugs.
Crazy Fredrick bought many very exquisite opal jewels.
Jack, love my big wad of sphinx quartz!
Sex prof gives back no quiz with mild joy.