Eunoia is the shortest word in English which contains all five vowels. The word was coined by Aristotle to describe a blissful and benevolent state of mind. Eunoia is also the title of a book by Canadian poet Christian Bök (his definition is 'beautiful thinking'), which consists of five univocalic chapters; in other words each chapter is made up of words containing just one vowel. Here's the beginning of the A chapter:
Awkward grammar appals a craftsman. A Dada bard as daft as Tzara damns stagnant art and scrawls an alpha (a slapdash arc and a backward zag) that mars all stanzas and jams all ballads (what a scandal). A madcap vandal crafts a small black ankh -- a handstamp that can stamp a wax pad and at last plant a mark that sparks an ars magna (an abstract art that charts a phrasal anagram). A pagan skald chants a dark saga (a Mahabharata), as a papal cabal blackballs all annals and tracts, all dramas and psalms: Kant and Kafka, Marx and Marat. A law as harsh as a fatwa bans all paragraphs that lack an A as a standard hallmark.
Brilliant! Bök was on Radio 4's Today programme this morning. Eunoia took him seven years to write, and in that time he read the three-volume Websters New International Dictionary five times, making a note of all univocalic words. He embarked on the task because he was fascinated by the Oulipo group of French poets and mathematicians of the 1960s, who imposed new structures and constraints on their writing. One of this group was Georges Perec, whose work La Disparition doesn't include a single 'e' (he also wrote Les Revenentes,in which 'e' is the only vowel used throughout).
Bök set himself even more rigid rules: he managed to include 98% of all univocalic words in the dictionary (he only left out about twenty words, which include gingivitis and belvedere, which he couldn't fit in to the 'storyline'). He also set himself the extra task of 'suppressing' the letter 'y' and that letter appears rarely.
Bök found that each vowel had its own personality due to the words it's found in: A is courtly, E elegiac, I lyrical, O jocular and U is obscene.
To hear the radio interview with Bök, go to the 30 October page of the Today website; the interview took place at 8.20. Extracts from each of the five chapters are here. Bök said his favourite bit of the book was the beginning of the I chapter, so here it is:
Writing is inhibiting. Sighing, I sit, scribbling in ink this pidgin script. I sing with nihilistic witticism, disciplining signs with trifling gimmicks -- impish hijinks which highlight stick sigils. Isn't it glib? Isn't it chic? I fit childish insights within rigid limits, writing shtick, which might instil priggish misgivings in critics blind with hindsight. I dismiss nitpicking criticism which flirts with philistinism. I bitch; I kibitz -- griping, whilst criticizing dimwits, sniping whilst indicting nitwits, dismissing simplistic thinking, in which philippic wit is still illicit.