This missive is a lipogram, a work of words without a letter or letters. This essay omits the letter after m.
I discovered lipograms at a Web site, a word-lover’s delight that I refuse here to list because its title bears the letter after m. Because I like to wield words weirdly, I like lipograms. As a child, I liked crossword puzzles, which helped build my vocabulary. I sometimes still complete them, but rarely these days, because they are too repetitive or are peppered with multitudes of celebrities. Crosswords were good for formative years, but I’ve moved forward. I like other puzzles, those that use my gray matter otherwise. A lipogram fits that bill.
A lipogram without the less-rare letters is a difficult creature to create. Simple it is to omit the rare letters ‘ q, x, y ‘ but lipograms without a d, e, i, r, s, t or the letter after m are hard to make. As I try to write just a lipogrammatic paragraph without a less rare letter, I discover it’s a difficult, slow process but a good cerebral exercise. It causes regular recourse to the thesaurus every few words or so as I search for substitutes for words that house the letter after m. It’s automatic to use the same words every time I write, but the lipogram propels me to discover fresh surrogates for the words that immediately elect themselves for use. Spell-check is useless because it lacks lipogrammatic programs.
True lipograms lack exotic terms, words cut short with periods, symbols such as * or # that simply replace the omitted letter, or & for the opposite of “or.” That is the cheater’s method.
The lipogram at the above-cited website omits e. I tried a lipogram without e, but Eutzly, my goat, gets omitted, so I stopped. I omitted the letter after m so I may tell of my goat. Two of my cats, however, are omitted in this missive. (I see that lipograms seem to foster alliterative phrases. That may be caused by higher use of some letters to replace the omitted letter.) With this lipogram, Eutzly may still caper about, chew his cud, eat his hay, bleat as I walk up the hill to visit him, or perch atop his blocks. The cats may meow, scratch, scamper or eat Meow Mix. I may play my fiddle but must avoid the eight-wire pear-shaped plucked producer of music.
I must avoid some days of the week. I could suggest them by their order, but which is first? Is Tuesday the third day or the fourth less two? Similarly, I must avoid some of the 12 parts of the year, specifically the first, sixth, plus the part before the twelfth, but I may list May.
Poetry is more difficult without a popular letter. Here is a lipogrammatic limerick I composed to test my mettle:
A scribbler omitted a letter
To make his essay seem better;
The letter left out
Gave the essay more clout,
(He hoped), so he’s the letter’s debtor.
Try a lipogram if you have twice the usual time to write a missive — keep your thesaurus close by. You’ll see that you will grow as a writer as you amass your debt to the letter left out.