Author Bob Hostetler

O I C, U C?

I’ve been a fan of James Taylor (he of “Fire and Rain” and “Carolina on My Mind” fame) since I first heard “Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight” on the radio at a particularly lonely time in my life. That’s a story for another time; we won’t get into it right now. But from that day I bought or stole every album he ever released. On his 1979 release, Flag, he included a song titled “B.S.U.R. (S.U.C.S.I.M.I.M.).” As he sang it in the chorus of the song, it became clearer to any listener: “Be as you are, as you see as I am I am.”

I’ve since learned that there’s a word for what he did there. (Of course there is.) It’s called a grammagram. (And, no, that’s not a photo app exclusively for grandmothers, smart aleck.) A grammagram is a word that can be expressed phonetically as a string of letters; and as James Taylor showed (call me, James, okay?), whole sentences can be formed using (or as) grammagrams.

SKP is a grammagram (for “escapee”). So is XLNC (“excellency”) and NMNE (“anemone”). As well as (no hints for these) ODS and RKDN and what is thought to be the longest single-word grammagram, XPDNC.

The brilliant author William Steig (he of Shrek and Abel’s Island fame) wrote a couple of picture books—C D B and C D C? using only letters, numbers, and symbols to make sentences, such as “C U N 10SE.” Sure, adding numbers and symbols (such as ¢ 10 EL) is cheating; and pictures make the meanings a bit clearer. But both books are clever and fun.

So, do you know any grammagrams? Can you write any sentences (or sonnets, Andrew? hmmm?) using letters only (or, if you like, letters, numbers, and symbols)? 

Why not give it a shot in the comments? Bonus points for anyone writing a complete book in grammagrams.

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