Word Ways


A. Ross Eckler


Among Shakespeare's 154 sonnets, is there one that contains every letter of the alphabet? The letter Z occurs in 14 sonnets, the letter Q in 44, the letter X in 43, the letter J in 50, and the letter K in 151. Assuming that the letters occur independently and at random - not unreasonable for rare letters - the probability that all five letters occur in a single sonnet is (.09)(.29)(.32)(.98) which equals 0.0023. The probability that all 154 sonnets fail to produce is equal to (1-.0023) raised to the 154th power, or 0.67, so the probability of at least one pangrammatic sonnet is 0.33.