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A leipogram (also: lipogram, from ancient Greek λείπειν leípein "omit" and γράμμα grámma "letter") is a text in which - consciously (literary language game) or unconsciously (sound painting) - one or more letters of the alphabet are not used . The difficulty is on the one hand the length of the leipogrammatic text and on the other hand the frequency of the corresponding letter in the language concerned. Accordingly, leipogrammatics is the art of composing leipograms. To a certain extent the counterpart to the leipogram is the pangram .

History of the Leipogramm in Europe


The first documented leipogram is a fragment of a Greek hymn to the Hermionian Demeter without the letter Sigma , written in the 6th century BC by the Greek choral lyricist Lasos from Hermione in the Peloponnese . He also wrote a dithyramb called Kentauroi without a sigma. The Greek poet Pindar wrote in 6/5. Century supposedly an ode without a sigma. In these first leipogrammatic attempts, sound aesthetic aspects were probably in the foreground. So the sigma was considered an ugly sound.

Then it lasted until 2/3. and 5th century AD, until Nestor von Laranda and after his example the Egyptian-born epic poet and grammarian Triphiodoros wrote their - not preserved - leipogrammatic adaptations of the Iliad and the Odyssey , in which the letter identifying the respective chant was omitted. The two Homeric epics, each with their 24 chants, were processed progressively and leipogrammatically; each of the 24 letters of the Greek alphabet does not appear in sequence in the chant numbered with the respective letter.

The next surviving, also progressive leipogrammatic work comes from the 5th century AD. Fulgentius , a Christian writer and not to be confused with the eponymous Bishop of Ruspe , wrote a work De aetatibus mundi et hominis , a Christian history from the beginning of the world, in which a different letter of the alphabet is progressively missing in each chapter. The beginning of the first chapter, without the letter A:

"Primum igitur mundi tempus sumendum est ex primo homine infelicissimo precepti dominici contemtore et ex eius coniuge viri simplicis seductrice, in quibus et serpens invidus utrorumque deceptor ostenditur et mulier mortis primordium miseris successoribus repperitur"

"So now the history of the world must begin with the most unfortunate first human being who transgressed divine commandment, and with his wife, the seductress of the simple fellow, whereby at the same time the envious viper of both deceivers and his wife are the origin of death ( of mortality) whose miserable offspring is. "

It can be assumed that some of the leipogrammatic works from the long period between Lasos and Nestor von Laranda have been lost.

middle Ages

It was not until the 12th century that another typographical work appeared: Petrus Riga , Canon of St. Denis near Paris , wrote a Biblia versificata (Bible in verse form) containing parts of typographical texts .

Modern times


Again there is a larger gap between Riga and the baroque period, when the leipogram reached its heyday. The leipogram is widespread in the Spanish baroque, as well as in the German baroque. It is customary to insert a poem or other text passage without an R in the appropriate place . Examples are Lope de Vega , Estebanillo Gonzalez , Francisco Navarrete y Ribera for the Spanish, Barthold Heinrich Brockes , Georg Philipp Harsdörffer , Christian Weise and pastor Johann Conrad Bonorand for the German Baroque.

The Spaniard Alonso de Alcalá y Herrera wrote five short stories in which he renounced the five vowels one after the other.

The Baroque author Barthold Heinrich Brockes avoids in his poem The Silence that followed a strong thunderstorm over longer passages the R to symbolize the silence; but he also uses the R sound in it all the more strongly as the storm is falling. The leipogram is used here as a conscious stylistic device for the tonal design of the poem. The baroque poet Georg Philipp Harsdörffer put in his eight-part Frauenzimmer talk games , a collection of parlor games for the baroque salon society, including two conversation tasks ( the conditional letters and the letter game ) without using the letters M and L as a social game pastime and also wrote the poem Sweet Punishment in it without L . Christian Weise wrote in his text The three worst arch fools in the whole world an R- less speech for a man in love who could not pronounce the R. Casanova reports something similar in his autobiography Histoire de ma vie (Story of my life) , in which he reports on the celebration of an illustrious society in Ludwigsburg, at which a beautiful actress with a small speech impediment was also present. He rewrote a role for her overnight so that it no longer contained an R. Even at the end of the 18th century wrote Gottlob Burmann poems without R .

19th century

The Leipogramm has long passed its peak. Now it is more literary eccentrics and outsiders who compose leipograms.

Franz Rittler and Leopold Kolbe , the two combatants in an actual leipogrammatic contest, are to be named as the most productive authors. Franz Rittler's novel The Twins was published in 1813 . An attempt to write a novel without an R from sixty abandoned words as proof of the richness and flexibility of the German language. In the novel No Love Without Torment , published three years later . A short story, simple and yet artificial , Leopold Kolbe reacted to Rittler's twins and did not use an R in this book either . Rittler, Kolbe's role model in matters of Leipogramm, added a second part to the third edition of his novel in 1820, Emma and Gustav von Falkenau. A continuation of the attempt to write a short novel without an R from sixty abandoned words. Second part of the twins . In it he announces another Leipogramm novel that wants to do without the A , the B and the C - but it will never be finished. Also in 1813 Rittler wrote another small R-lipogrammatic novel Lisette and Wilhelm . He also published the letter without e . In 1826 in the pocket book Aurora edited by Franz Graeffer .

Paul von Schönthan is represented with two R-less stories , on the one hand with A peculiar story within his small humoresques published between the years 1877 and 1882 , on the other hand with How the goldfish came about. A story with a hook , published in the German Children's Calendar for the year 1883. Also mentioned is FAC Keyser's (probably only) work Entertaining Patience Tests published in 1866 in small novels, novels and stories, in which a certain letter is omitted each time, according to the order of the whole alphabet . However, only the first of the three-volume project exists.

Jacques Aragos Voyage

In French, the novel Curieux voyage autour du monde (Strange World Tour) by Jacques Arago , published in 1881, deserves a mention, which - apart from the title - dispenses with the letter A.

20th century

The leipogramma has long since died out as a well-known, widespread game, and yet it is the 20th century in which the best and most monumental leipogrammatic works are written. The E , the most common letter in German, French and English, is never used in the works of Ernest Vincent Wright and Georges Perec .

1939 appeared Wright's novel Gadsby which completely without the letter E was written. The French writer and oulipist Georges Perec published a 300-page, e-less novel in 1969 under the title La Disparition . This was congenially translated into the German language by Eugen Helmlé in 1986 with the title Anton Voyls Fortgang .

“Voyl lives (but that used to be) almost without light, as opal glass in the room strongly blocks the light. Furniture and luxury mean nothing to him, which is why Anton's apartment is simple and unadorned. Lime wall, table, chair and sofa, and it also smells terribly of garlic. That's it. Anton Voyl has nothing to do with the bathroom and that sort of thing, considers it useless, for him that's clutter and hocus-pocus. "

- Georges Perec / Eugen Helmlé : Anton Voyl's progression

Eugen Helmlé also wrote two typographical novels in 1993 and 1995. In the night train to Lyon he renounced E and R , in pop and fall in Lyon first on E , then R . In the afterword to the latter, Helmlé discusses the language under leipogrammatic restrictions and the translation of such a text, including a. also to changes that occur with the language in such work, for example “when the rasping R” disappears. The German poet Friederike Kempner had already dispensed with the R in her poems without the r in 1903 .

A progressive leipogram in the form of a letter novel, in which more and more letters disappear in the course of the novel, was written by the American author Mark Dunn with the title Ella Minnow Pea - a Novel in Letters (German Nollops legacy ).

The famous poem ottos mops by Ernst Jandl , however, is not a leipogram, but belongs to the monovocalisms . Contemporary leipogrammatic prose poems exist by Brigitta Falkner and Ilse Kilic , among others . Kilic published the books Oskars Moral and Monika's Chaos Protocol: In Oskars Moral 's pressure cooker , in which she uses various types of leipograms in numerous individual texts. Also in the song The Stranger from India by the band Ton Steine ​​Scherben there is no E (except in the heading) . In Robert Gernhardt's humorous poem The day on which that disappeared the L is missing .

21st century

On the occasion of the lawsuits with which Telekom defended a letter as a trademark, "Ulrich S (t) ock" published his gloss "60 seconds without a T". The Icelandic author Sindri Freysson draws on Perec's novel La Disparition in his short story E-Mail (2011) , in which the most common letter in many languages, the e , is avoided as a parable for the possibility of reducing the world's population.

In 2016 Ulrich Goerdten presented a collection of poems under the title Lürische Ybungen . In the poems, the alphabet is systematically limited to a few letters by using the letters of certain words or word sequences as the basis for new language products. A second collection followed in 2019, which also uses special Oulipo procedures.

Leipogramme in the different cultures and in the nationality

Leipogramme does not only exist with European baroque poets or language-mathematical oulipists . Leipograms are a stylistic device that - very likely independently of one another - was produced by numerous advanced cultures. Classical Persian literature knows the leipogram, as does the Kâvya style of Indian Sanskrit literature. The Leipogrammat is sensational in Anatolia : The Asiks, poets of the Turkish highlands, know the Leipogrammat under the name Dudak degmez (about not touching the lips ). What is meant are leipograms for which it is not allowed to use labials . At the annual competition in Konya , the Dudak degmez is considered the toughest of twelve disciplines. Participants place a needle between their lips to avoid the temptation to use labials that touch the lips. The Asiks of Erzurum developed the art of leipograms to the greatest extent .

Systematics of the different types of leipograms

The following graphic shows a simple system of the different types of leipograms: Leipogram

Philosophical background of the leipograms

The leipogram is to be seen in connection with both language play and methodological restriction, for example in the sense of Oulipo ( L'Ouvroir de Littérature Potentielle, Workshop for Potential Literature ).

The Leipogramm novel has a tradition going back to antiquity and flourished again in the German Baroque :

The difficulty of a leipogram results from the frequency with which a letter that is omitted occurs in the language used. Leipograms usually do not want to be perceived as mere curiosities, but rather claim to cast a very specific view of language and thus also of reality.


  • Klaus Peter Dencker (Ed.): Poetic language games. From the Middle Ages to the present. Reclam-Verlag, Stuttgart 2002, ISBN 3-15-018238-7 .
  • Astrid Poier-Bernhard: Have fun with Haas! or without Haas, depending on how you want to see it now ... 2nd edition. Special number VG, Vienna 2003, ISBN 3-85449-205-7 .
  • Leopold Kolbe (author), Michael Ponstingl (ed.): No love without torments. A little story, simple and yet artificial. Brandstätter-Verlag, Vienna 1996, ISBN 3-85447-647-7 (in the epilogue “Herzeleid, fein lipogrammati” the editor gives a concise overview of the history of the lipogram; reprint of the Pest 1816 edition).
  • Alfred Liede: Poetry as a game. Studies of nonsense poetry at the limits of language. 2nd Edition. De Gruyter, Berlin 1992, ISBN 3-11-012923-X (reprint of the Berlin 1963 edition).
  • Antonella Gallo: Virtuosismi retorici barocchi. Novella con lipogramma (Secolo d'oro; Vol. 40). Alinea, Firenze 2003, ISBN 88-8125-796-3 .

Web links

Wikibooks: Language games  - learning and teaching materials
Wiktionary: Leipogramm  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations


  1. ^ Suda On Line : Byzantine Lexicography → Search for Nestor of Laranda
  2. In: David Crystal : The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language . Campus, Frankfurt / New York 1993, Zweiausendeins 1995, p. 65.
  3. ^ Friederike Kempner : Poems without r in the Gutenberg-DE project
  4. Ulrich Stock: " 60 seconds without T " in: Die Zeit No. 35/2003
  5. Sindri Freysson: e-mail . In: Ursula Giger, Jürgen Glauser (Ed.): No man's land. Young literature from Iceland . With a preface by Hallgrímur Helgason. Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, Munich 2011, p. 217–232, reference mainly p. 219 f. ISBN 978-3-423-14041-6 .
  6. Ulrich Goerdten: Lürische Exercises. Sound poems and leipogrms. Edition Schwarzdruck, Gransee 2016, ISBN 978-3-935194-82-2 .
  7. Ulrich Goerdten: Lürische Exercises 2 . Sound poems and leipograms. Edition Schwarzdruck, Gransee 2019. ISBN 978-3-935194-99-0