o we really need anything more than 'the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog'? It has all the Latin letters in 35 letters and 9 words and works with both all-small and all-capital letters. I often wonder if there isn't an alternative, if only just for a change and have flirted with contenders such as these

  • the five boxing wizards jump quickly (31 characters, 6 words)
  • my expensive quartz watch once belonged to jfk (39 characters, 8 words)
  • six big jumping devils quickly forgot how to waltz (42 characters, 9 words)
  • sexy diva jennifer lopez wasn’t baking me quiche (41 characters, 8 words)

But I simply never remember any of them, while who - having once heard of them - could ever forget about the quick brown fox and the lazy dog?

I'm always minded of Saki's delightful story of the schoolboy who was considered dull and stupid as he stared out of the window having heard literature's greatest three-letter tragedy, 'The bad fox has got the red hen' (the full quote opens in a new window here).

You can find on the internet more of them than you could imagine existed if you ask Google or Wikipedia for 'pangram', from the hyper-economical

  • New job: fix Mr. Gluck's hazy TV, PDQ! (26 characters, none repeated, 5 punctuation marks, 5 words)

to the extravagant

  • An inspired calligrapher can create pages of beauty using stick ink, quill, brush, pick-axe, buzz saw, or even strawberry jam (107 characters, 20 words ;-) )

Wikipedia also gives examples in a variety of languages including Catalan, Gaelic and Hebrew, as well as variants which feature all diacritical marks or only diacritical vowels: as to who gets the prize between these gems here, the Hungarians, the Icelanders and the Poles must fight it out between them:

- though the German entry must get a prize in a special category for the most special characters squeezed into a single word:

  • Heizölrückstoßabdämpfung ("fuel oil recoil absorber")

But actually none of them is more beautiful than this 9thC. Latin example:

  • quam pulchre ymnizat fondens vox Belgika cantum (41 characters, 7 words)

('how beautifully does a Belgian voice make hymns, pouring forth song')