A univocalic is a piece of writing where the writer uses only a single vowel. Because September Seventeenth contains only the vowel ‘e,’ it’s the perfect day to celebrate this rare but interesting writing form.
As Richard Lederer points out in his book The Word Circus, some of the longest common univocalic words use the vowel ‘e’:
strengthlessness, senselessness, defenselessness
Lederer also cites a univocalic translation of “Mary Had a Little Lamb” by Paul Hellweg from Word Ways magazine:
Meg kept the wee sheep,
The sheep’s fleece resembled sleet;
Then wherever Meg went
The sheep went there next;
He went where she needed her texts,
The precedent he neglected;
The pre-teen felt deep cheer
When the sheep entered there.
But ‘e’ is not the only vowel for constructing univocalics. Dave Morice in his book Alphabet Avenue quotes a univocalic haiku by Howard Bergerson that uses only the vowel ‘i’:
The Haiku of Eyes
In twilight this spring
Girls with miniskirts will swim
In string bikinis (2).
Today’s Challenge: One Vowel Howl
How many words can you list that contain only a single vowel, as in ‘September,’ ‘bookworm,’ or ‘Mississippi’? Pick a single vowel, and make a list of words that contain only that vowel. Then, use your list of words as ideas for a univocalic composition, such as a haiku, the first sentence of a short story, or a newspaper headline. Hold a Univocalic Day contest or reading so you can share your creations. (Common Core Language 3)
Quotation of the Day: Vowels . . . are pure music — woodwind to the consonantal percussion . . . . The history of the sound-changes of a language is mainly a history of its vowels. -Anthony Burgess
1 – Lederer, Richard. The Word Circus. Springfield, Massachusetts, Meriam-Webster, Incorporated, 1998.
2 – Morice, Dave. Alphabet Avenue: Wordplay in the Fast Lane. Chicago: Chicago Review Press, 1997.