Sunday, 27 February 2011

Constraining your writing: univocal

The Inky Fool back in January told us about 'Gadsby' - a 50,000-word manuscript which romps along without any 'e's at all.

So I thought I'd just touch occasionally in coming posts on fun trials to conduct with your writing.

First up is univocal - writing which shuns all but a particular non-consonant, using, say "a" or "i" to stand in by proxy for its additional four chums.

This is part of a work by C.C. Bombaugh in 1890, using only "o":

No cool monsoons blow soft on Oxford dons,
Orthodox, jog-trot, book-worm Solomons


I did try it, and this is my stab at it.

(Warning: It's a bit odd, a tad racy and not my usual sort of thing. You can rip it to bits in a bit, BUT I want you to try doing your own first! It's tricky!)

What a drag!

Adam's a bad lad
Fact: bad at maths and can’t stand class
Alas - what plans Adam has!
A zany ad-man? RADA (Batman)?
Rap! A slam champ? A bard?
Start a band - all mad fans and WAGs?

Adam’s dad rants: What plans?
Tarmac gang? Stack cans at Asda?
Adam: Stack cans? That’s banana’s!
Adam asks Dan. Dan’s smart.
Dan says: Always warm at army barracks.

Lads land at camp, what a sham!
All starch and march. Bad days.
Anyway, Adam has an asthma attack.
Back at last, angry, antsy, and has cash!
Blags a flash car, an Astra - fast.
Stamp that gas! Damn blast - a crash.
Arm: small gash, Astra: vast scratch.
Bank says: card back, thanks.
Ta'ra backpack – Agra, Java, all that.

And Dan’s back. Tall, fab tan,
all blah blah blah Baghdad at war:
ranks, tanks, Saddam, bang bang.
Asks Anna – rampant Chav slag –
Fancy a shag? Anna wants an army man.
Jammy bastard: Anna’s chancy, always randy.
Anna’s flat’s all dark and hazy –
mmm...shady lady... mmm hash,
mmm brandy and…mmm? Clannad?...
anyway, hand wanks, spanks, anal pranks,
Dan’s hands at bra and pants…
…Aaaargh! Anna’s a lad in drag!
Man’s drawl: Thanks pal!
Fag ash, tacky damp, bad tang.
Aghast. Dan’s ‘lad’ has pangs.

Always a catch.

© C Kirwan

p.s. If you think this post is in a slightly unusual syntax, it's what's missing that you may pick up on - the scarcity, the drought, the want of ... what? Go to my first words and think about it! The truth is hiding in plain sight!


  1. It wis whin yi sid 'non-consonant' thit I rilizid wit wiz ip.

    I din't think I'm pliying this right, im I?

  2. Dave - Most amusing. I did a LOL there! I knew I'd be rumbled at that point, but I really couldn't come up with another word for 'vowel'.

  3. Excellent,BB! Et clever. Me? Never keen ...
    oh damn, I give up. Although it would be a fun way to waste my afternoon, which should be spent working. Besides, if you can write 50,000 words without using 'e' then e must be the hardest to limit yourself to.
    And I don't get the little puzzle so I'll come back after everybody else has commented to see what I can't figure out now.

  4. Wow! I am impressed! Got a real kick out of the last verse, too. How long did it take you to write this?

    And I accept your challenge to give it a try. I'll let you know how it goes.

  5. Deb - You say you don't know the answer but you do - the answer is in your answer!

    PattyF - Why thank you! I wrote it a while ago After hearing someone read out one with just 'o's and just found it again recently. I suspect it took a long time! Do let me know how you get on with yours!

    Rainy - ta, lass!

  6. Clare.. I think you are far too clever for me.. ! I'm going to test myself and see if I can actually come up with something!

  7. Wow, that is impressive -- too clever for me as well -- gonna pull out the pad and try to come up with something myself!

  8. Me head is spinning.

    I thought it was more complicated than that. Never trust myself when I think the answer is too easy!

  9. Clare - You mean I'm just a bigger time-waster! ;-)

    Brahm - Thanks for visiting! Actually I'm not as clever as I thought... I just spotting (whisper it) an 'i' in the last verse.. but I don't think anyone noticed... just as long as I don't mention it...doh!

    Deborah - although the answer was anything BUT eeeeeeeeeesy

    Ellie - Yes, but it's not curing cancer or feeding the starving millions is it?