30 October 2008


For this post, like Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross, I am largely indebted to the BBC -
Eunoia is the shortest word in English containing all five vowels - and it means "beautiful thinking". It is also the title of Canadian poet Christian Bok's book of fiction in which each chapter uses only one vowel.
Mr Bok believes his book proves that each vowel has its own personality, and demonstrates the flexibility of the English language. The book took seven years to research and write. Below there's an extract from one of Bok's chapters:-
Loops on bold fonts now form lots of words for books. Books form cocoons of comfort - tombs to hold bookworms. Profs from Oxford show frosh who do post-docs how to gloss works of Wordsworth. Dons who work for proctors or provosts do not fob off school to work on crosswords, nor do dons go off to dorm rooms to loll on cots. Dons go crosstown to look for bookshops known to stock lots of top-notch goods: cookbooks, workbooks - room on room of how-to-books for jocks (how to jog, how to box), books on pro sports: golf or polo. Old colophons on schoolbooks from schoolrooms sport two sorts of logo: oblong whorls, rococo scrolls - both on worn morocco.
BBC Website readers were asked to devise their own little pieces using only one vowel. Here's just a small selection:-
I think this is gimmicky! Katherine, Arizona, USA
A Lancs man asks "Can that mad, bad, Yank MacCain catch Barack?" Lancs Man says Yanks want Barack? Fab!
Mike W, Lancashire
Every sheep relent ! Seven enter where'er three entrench. Ten express envy. Better repent eh ? Very deep.... James Upton, London

Dull. Dull, ugly, uck:Tumult upturns, hurls, bursts, Curbs plush hush, Dull murmur gusts -Humdrum duck clucks thus. Laura Redfern, Conwy, Wales
John won't borrow Bok's book - too bloody wordy! Only O's? Noooooo! John W, Sheffield

CHALLENGE! Can any readers of this blog create their own bits of language using only one vowel? Here's my, admittedly, rather pathetic example:-

Even the defenceless yet excellent Exeter eels "eek" endlessly whenever they bend. Y.Pudding, Sheffield

I heard Christian Bok on Radio 4 today, talking about how the exercise of writing his odd little book had caused him to shelve normal creative channels and instead focus on the whims of language. An unusual notion drawn from his favourite word - eunoia - beautiful thinking. I had never even encountered this word until today.


  1. Fascinatin'!
    YP, have you read "The Wonderful 'O'" by James Thurber? This idea reminds me of that. Of course, it's doing without one vowel, not four of them, but a great book for all ages above about 8...
    I read it along with "The Thirteen Clocks" (brilliant story too).
    Perfectly illustrated by Ronald Searle. And out of print, dammit.
    Good for English classes.

  2. PS Did you know that today is 'World Teachers Day"
    I just got a mass-produced email. But guess what?- no apostrophe. Grrr!

  3. YP, according to dictionary.com, eunoia is not an English word. And according to Webster's Online Dictionary With Multi-lingual Thesaurus, eunoia is not a non-English word either.

    Just thought you might like to know....

    I will try to concentrate for a long enough period to come up with something for your little challenge.

  4. KATHERINE - No to the books. I will add them to my "must read" list. World Teachers' Day (with the apostrophe)? No wonder it's raining.
    MR R.W.PLAGUE. Sir, I have found "eunoia" in three online dictionaries. Of course it is a Greek word but isn't that one of the enormous strengths of the English language - how we borrow and absorb words from other languages?

  5. Off on a slightly different tack, I'd just like to say that I think "eunoia" may mean "beautiful thinking" but I don't like it as a word - - it sounds like "eeew no" is somewhere therein. Probably the sound Jennyta's ex-husband made when he found the rats in the freezer.

  6. YP, I knew it was a Greek word if it was anything. But your post said it was the shortest word in the English language with all five vowels....

    Just keeping you honest and on your toes! :)

  7. I'll have to respond to your challenge later, but did you know there are two words that use all the vowels in order (including "sometimes 'Y'"). Trouble is, I can only remember one: facetiously.

  8. Odd hotchpotch of words
    Torn from good books
    Morph to most droll broth

  9. You're 'it' YP. You've just been tagged.

  10. I too heard that radio article and particularly remember that it is the word used by Aristotle to descibe the state of mind required to form a friendship with someone, although I'm sure he wouldn't have minded people taking it as the inspiration for a book that sounds like it was generated by a computer software package that came free with a virus-checker.


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