Lipogram: explanation, history and practical application

A few facts about witches…

Which letter has the author obliged himself not to use in the following texts?


1/ How can you be polite if you meet a witch?

Come close to this witch. Turn in a circle three times, stomp your feet and recite a Victor Hugo poem from the last word to the first. Open and close your black umbrella three times. Turn your back and show your buttocks. Shout loudly: “I hate you, you old crone! Here’s my butt! “. If this old hag is a witch, you’ll see a happy smile blossom on her ugly green muzzle, thanking you for your courtesy.

If she’s not a witch, you’ll be bored!

2/ Will we sell her a good perfume?

We’ve never seen anything like it. Never. Because a fragrant perfume has no appeal on such a nasty human toad with a stinking broom! Any fine product makes her vomit!

3/Do thesemonsters go fishing?

No! They hate fishing because they love earthworms. They don’t understand why we lose tasty, succulent earthworms to filthy, bone-stuffed carp or tench.

4/Can these ugly women cry?

Certainly. To annoy the inhabitants of a building at night, for example. If people hear a baby wailing at four in the morning, it could be a trick of one of those wicked magicians. (To be sure, simply prick the baby’s bottom with a pin. It’s best not to do the experiment in the presence of the baby’s mother).

5/How do youwrite to a witch whose address you don’t know?

It’s not easy. See this sample letter :

Old cow!

I’m writing to ask for your address. Since I don’t know your name, I’ll leave the envelope blank. If your horrible girlfriends read my letter, please let me know, but I don’t know how, as I have no fixed address. Since we don’t know each other, there’s no point in telling you my name.

And good evening, old cow!



This practice, which consists in depriving oneself of one letter of the alphabet, is called a
The lipogram game has been around since ancient times.


In the 16th century, the great Spanish poet Lope de Vega published five short stories in prose, without a, without e, etc…


In the 19th century, G.P Philomneste composed twenty-five moral quatrains. In each quatrain, he retracted a letter of the alphabet.

Quatrain without t:


Do you want to live in peace? First, as a wise man,

Renounce love and marriage,

Never let yourself be guided by pleasures;

Flee carefully from the beginnings of desire.

The longest lipogram was written by Georges Perec in 1969. It’s a whole book, La disparition, without the letter e.

Here are a few sentences:

Anton Voyl couldn’t sleep. He turned on the light. His Jazz marked twenty past midnight. He heaved a deep sigh and sat up in bed, leaning on his duffel. He picked up a novel, opened it and read. But all he could grasp was a confused imbroglio, and he kept stumbling over a word whose meaning he didn’t know.

Conversely, three years later, Perec wrote a book using only the vowel e, Les Revenentes.



1/ Read this lipogram, written by a student. Try to find the vowel that is not used:

All the streets are illuminated. Day breaks. Nelly and Séverine wake up suddenly to go downstairs and see the shop windows decorated with toys and multicolored balls… Daylight is fading, it’s twilight, we can only see half the sun. The girls go home to sleep. Christmas is coming soon! Tonight, Santa brings down toys for everyone. He’s dressed in red and his boots are black… It’s still dawn. The little girls run to their toys, they’re happy. Long live Christmas!

2/ Try your turn at writing a lipogram by depriving yourself:

a / From the letter t

b / From the letter i

c / From the letter e ( Caution! Deleting the e also means deleting

Author: Céline De Ré

Publication date : 9 February 2024

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