A record-setting pangrammatic window

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A few months ago, I posted here (and on Slate's Lexicon Valley blog) about PangramTweets, a bot created by Jesse Sheidlower that combs Twitter for tweets that include all 26 letters of the alphabet. I mentioned that it would be interesting to see if PangramTweets turns up any particularly short "pangrammatic windows," i.e., pangrammatic strings in naturally occurring text. At the time, the shortest known example was 42 letters long, in a passage from Piers Anthony's Cube Route:

"We are all from Xanth," Cube said quickly. "Just visiting Phaze. We just want to find the dragon."

My post inspired Malcolm Rowe, a software engineer at Google, to set about finding short pangrammatic windows in an automated fashion, first on the Project Gutenberg corpus and then on the megacorpus of web pages indexed by Google. (Let's hear it for Google's 20 percent time!) On his blog, Malcolm now reports on his findings, including the discovery of a 36-letter pangrammatic window that appeared in a review of the movie Magnolia on PopMatters:

Further, fractal geometries are replicated on a human level in the production of certain “types” of subjectivity: for example, aging kid quiz show whiz Donnie Smith (William H. Macy) and up and coming kid quiz show whiz Stanley Spector (Jeremy Blackman) are connected (or, perhaps, being cloned) in ways they couldn’t possibly imagine.

Malcolm also found a couple of 38-letter specimens:

So…..i accidentally microwaved my q10. Just bought a z10. Liking it so far except for the typing. (CrackBerry Forums)

That's not the only ballroom dance. I take lessons too. There's Salsa, Tango, Waltz, Vienese Waltz, Quick Step, Jive, Swing, Foxtrot, Lindy Hop, Mambo, Cha-Cha, and Merengue. There are obscure ones too. (Yahoo Answers)

The first one, as Malcolm notes, loses style points for its use of the product names "Q10" and "Z10." The second one is a bit better, even if it's just a list of dance styles. But the pangrammatic window in the PopMatters review is a real gem, consisting of nothing but lucid, coherent prose. Congratulations to the reviewer, Todd Ramlow, who had no way of knowing that he was inadvertently setting an obscure linguistic record.

I highly recommend Malcolm's series of posts if you're interested in the programming that went into his search: "Pangrammatic windows" (June 2), "Pangrams in C" (June 6), "Pangrammatic performance" (Sept. 6), and "Pangrams on the web" (Oct. 4).


  1. D.O. said,

    October 4, 2014 @ 1:46 am

    The possibilities are infinite. How about the shortest string containing all letters in alphabetical order?

  2. rosie said,

    October 4, 2014 @ 2:23 am

    Great idea, D.O. One of those is called a panalphabetic window. Some of several hundred letters have been found, but as far as I know nobody's trawled huge corpora for them. Yet.

  3. D.O. said,

    October 4, 2014 @ 2:44 am

    Wow! The things people are interested in. What about the largest string of letters without repetition? I know some people are writing poems with 26 words, each starting with a different letter.

  4. Gregory Kusnick said,

    October 4, 2014 @ 11:20 am

    I'm guessing Big Bird holds the record for shortest panalphabetic window with "ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ! It's the most remarkable word I've ever seen!"


  5. Mara K said,

    October 4, 2014 @ 11:56 am

    For those of you too far removed from your children's television roots to get the joke, that's pronounced [ˌæbkədɛfgiˌd͡ʒɛkl̩mənapkwɹ̩ˈstuvwɪksɨz] (ab-ke-def-gi-jekyll-men-op-kwr-STUV-wyx-iz)

    Thanks @George for getting the song stuck in my head all over again.

  6. Tom Parmenter said,

    October 4, 2014 @ 12:32 pm

    The pangrammatic windows show the whole alphabet is functional and useful. Even the product names and model numbers use the rarity and glamour of the xyz's.

  7. Ray Girvan said,

    October 4, 2014 @ 1:51 pm

    @Tom Parmenter: the rarity and glamour of the xyz's

    Mxyzptlk springs to mind.

  8. Rod Johnson said,

    October 4, 2014 @ 3:13 pm

    As does Mxyztplk.

  9. j a higginbotham said,

    October 4, 2014 @ 3:35 pm

    Or Zzyzx, California (1944).

  10. david said,

    October 4, 2014 @ 4:05 pm


  11. Keith Ivey said,

    October 4, 2014 @ 8:49 pm

    Not to be confused with Joe Btfsplk.

  12. maidhc said,

    October 5, 2014 @ 4:03 am

    Not quite as far up the end of the alphabet as Zzyzx, but a much more substantial community, is Yreka, California. Locally pronounced "Wye-REE-ka". Mark Twain says the name came from someone looking at a sign that said "Bakery" backwards. However another explanation is that it comes from the local Shasta language, /wáik'a/ meaning white mountain.

  13. Ken said,

    October 5, 2014 @ 10:31 pm

    Programmatic detection of panalphabetics has some interesting requirements. You want to exclude ABC…XYZ or it's trivial, but there are any number of close variants (the Alphabet Song, for example, with commas and a final "and") that should also be excluded.

  14. dw said,

    October 6, 2014 @ 10:01 pm


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