Playful Pangrams for Sign Painters (Plus Other Languages)

Power up your sign painting practise with these playful pangrams. And then try to write your own.

"Bright vixens jump; dozy fowl quack" with pictures of a fox and a duck.
Pangram with lettering and illustration by David Leutert.

Most English speakers are familiar with 'the quick brown fox jumps over a lazy dog', and maybe even the slightly shorter, and more fun, 'pack my box with five dozen liquor jugs'. But have you come across 'vexed nymphs go for quick waltz job' or 'jumpy halfling dwarves pick quartz box'?

These pangrams (sentences containing every letter of the alphabet) are fun to create, and perfect for sign painting practice when you get bored of just lettering ABCs. They are also used by type designers to market fonts, but are problematic at the design stage.

Creating Pangrams

Different rules can be applied to the creation of pangrams, such as the acceptance, or not, of abbreviations, proper nouns, Roman numerals, contractions etc. In other languages (see below) things like accents and diacritics can also be included or excluded, affecting what's possible in terms of length.

Perfect pangrams use each letter only once, but they are incomprehensible to most people. One example is 'bortz waqf glyphs vex muck djin' which means 'signage indicating endowments for industrial diamonds annoy filth-spreading genies'.

Ultimately, creating pangrams is a bit of a brainteaser, with the aim of using all the letters in the shortest sentence possible.

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Non-English Pangrams

Other languages also have pangrams, including non-Latin scripts like Hebrew, Japanese and Thai. And those using Latin scripts often have to include additional letters such as the ñ in Spanish. There are pangrams for 59 different languages here, which were saved by Richard Rutter at Clearleft after their inexplicable deletion from Wikipedia.

Pangrams for Sign Painters

In The Tettaton Sign Painters Almanac, 1987, Ann Finley created four topical pangrams for the enjoyment of sign painters:

Wall dogs must quickly expedite hefty, oversized sign jobs. (49 letters)
Lettering experts, working fast, zip through even quite jumbled copy. (57 letters)
Expect skilled signwriters to use many jazzy, quaint old alphabets effectively. (67 letters)
The scriptorium contained jars of flexible quills and razor-sharp knives along with manuscripts to copy. (88 letters)

I had a go myself and offer up the following three. For me, the shortest is potentially cheating a little by using American English for 'oxidizing', so an alternative would be to make them 'zoo jobs' and the pangram 42 letters long.

Put my wicked quill in five hard oxidizing jobs. (39 letters)
My very fuzzy kit box just bulges with quick-dry paint. (44 letters)
By Jove, a weighty box, fine quill, and prized mahlstick. (44 letters)

If you want to have a go yourself, then there's a useful calculator here to see if you've created a true pangram, or which letters are missing. See if you can you get a sign painting themed one with less than 39 letters, the comments below are open...

I'd love to feature a couple of hand-painted pangrams, especially some of those above and below, in future issues BLAG (Better Letters Magazine). Please share anything you do via and/or tag @betterletters on instagram.

With thanks to David Leutert (@davidleutert) for the illustration and Richard Rutter at Clearleft (@weareclearleft) for saving the defunct Wikipedia list of pangrams.