There are so many reasons to find words interesting, and one of them is the arrangement and combination of their building blocks – their letters – and, for today’s purposes, their vowels in particular.

First up is greenskeeper, which makes use of the letter E, the most common letter in the English language, five times. Following closely behind are: referee, jambalaya, catamaran, cookbook and Madagascar, which each use the same vowel four times.

If you prefer that your words have some variety in their vowels, take a look at: authorize, ostentatious, cauliflower, dialogue, education, equation, euphoria, groundbreaking and inoculate. Each word makes use of all five major vowels.

Like your vowels better organized? Abstemious, facetious and arsenious (containing arsenic) all contain the five vowels in alphabetical order.

If you like lots of vowels and all at once, there’s sequoia, queue, obsequious and the Hawaiian island of Kauai. Going one better are Rousseauian (which refers to Jean-Jacques Rousseau) and queueing (also spelled queuing), which boast a record five vowels in a row.

When it comes to vowels, which come from Latin littera vocalis or “vocal letter,” we have to remember that Y is also sometimes a vowel, and without it, words such as: rhythm, cyzyrgy (the alignment of three heavenly bodies), thy, hymns, lynx, cyst and gym would not exist.

Keeping in mind that E is the most common letter in the English language (and probably in French too), do you think it would be possible to write an entire book without using that vowel? It has been done. In 1969, France’s Georges Perec published the novel “La Disparition,” which does not contain the letter E except for the ones in his name.

Perec was a member of the Workshop for Potential Literature, which was known as Oulipo (the abbreviation of its French name), and was composed of writers who endeavored to create works using constrained writing techniques. While the literal translation of the book’s title is “The Disappearance,” it was published in English as “A Void.”

The English word with the most vowels? Epizootiologies, with nine. (The studies of animal disease dynamics.) Obviously it didn’t make it into Perec’s book.

Jim Witherell of Lewiston is a writer and lover of words whose work includes “L.L. Bean: The Man and His Company” and “Ed Muskie: Made in Maine.”


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