This post was not brought to you by the letter E

Mary
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I guarantee you that the post you're reading (the part I wrote, anyway) does not contain the letters B, Z, or Q. Not an awesome feat of writing, I admit. However, I think you'll find this novel, written in 1939, way more impressive: it has over 50,000 words, not one of which uses the letter E -- the most common letter in the English language. I found out how difficult it is not to use the letter when I tried writing this very post. I got almost eight words in and then completely gave up. (The novel's author, Ernest Vincent Wright -- yes, his name starts with the accursed letter -- also confirms that it's hard: "As I wrote along, in long-hand at first, a whole army of little E's gathered around my desk.") Anyway, I digress -- read the first three paragraphs if you don't think Wright could have pulled it off:

If youth, throughout all history, had had a champion to stand up for it; to show a doubting world that a child can think; and, possibly, do it practically; you wouldn't constantly run across folks today who claim that "a child don't know anything." A child's brain starts functioning at birth; and has, amongst its many infant convolutions, thousands of dormant atoms, into which God has put a mystic possibility for noticing an adult's act, and figuring out its purport.

Up to about its primary school days a child thinks, naturally, only of play. But many a form of play contains disciplinary factors. "You can't do this," or "that puts you out," shows a child that it must think, practically or fail. Now, if, throughout childhood, a brain has no opposition, it is plain that it will attain a position of "status quo," as with our ordinary animals. Man knows not why a cow, dog or lion was not born with a brain on a par with ours; why such animals cannot add, subtract, or obtain from books and schooling, that paramount position which Man holds today.

But a human brain is not in that class. Constantly throbbing and pulsating, it rapidly forms opinions; attaining an ability of its own; a fact which is startlingly shown by an occasional child "prodigy" in music or school work. And as, with our dumb animals, a child's inability convincingly to impart its thoughts to us, should not class it as ignorant.

Writing of this type is called a "lipogram." The text of this Wikipedia article about the novel is almost lipogrammatic itself -- can you spot the one E that slips in?

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October 12, 2006 - 10:34am
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