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pair isogram bands

What do the three bands pictured above have in common? (Spoiler to follow, so if you want to figure it out yourself, now’s the time.)

Words, names, or phrases that have no letter appearing more than once are known as isograms. Most short words are isograms, of course, but long ones are rare, two of the longest in English being “dermatoglyphics” and “uncopyrightable.”

Pair isograms are words, names, or phrases such that every letter they contain appears exactly twice. The word “sestet” is a good example because the letters E, S, and T each appear exactly twice. Some longer pair isograms include “appeases,” “reappear,” “arraigning,” “horseshoer,” “intestines,” “happenchance,” and “Transnistria,” all of which are well-known to wordplay enthusiasts. Trivial examples include palindromes with even numbers of letters (“noon,” “redder,” “Hannah”) and repetitive words (“bonbon,” “beriberi,” “Titicaca”); anything in these two categories is automatically a pair isogram unless, of course, a letter appears four or more times (“muumuu,” “agar-agar,” “Walla Walla”).

Of the three bands pictured above, the names “ABBA” and “Duran Duran” are trivial pair isograms because one is a four-letter palindrome and the other is repetitive. The third, however, is an outstanding example because it’s long and well-mixed: “Montgomery Gentry.” I recently made the discovery that this country duo’s name is a pair isogram, and Internet searches yield no indication that any wordplay buff has previously spotted this. It clearly wasn’t an intentional gimmick by the musicians themselves, who simply formed the band’s name from the members’ surnames. Of all the pair isograms I’ve noticed over the years (“Caucasus,” “legal age,” “Hatch Act,” “Inka Dinka Doo,” “stuck one’s neck out”), “Montgomery Gentry” is my favorite so far—and they play some pretty good songs too.

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