Described as a "progressively lipogrammatic epistolary fable", the book is an epistolary novel set in the fictional island of Nollop situated off the coast of South Carolina and home to the man who invented the phrase The Quick Brown Fox Jumps Over The Lazy Dog. Now deceased, the islanders have erected a monument to honor their hero, but one day a tile with the letter "Z" falls from the statue. The leaders interpret the falling tile as a message from beyond the grave and the letter is banned from use. On an island where the residents pride themselves on their love of language, this is seen as a tragedy. They are still reeling from the shock, when another tile falls and then another....Mark Dunn takes us on a journey against time through the eyes of Ella Minnow Pea and her family as they race to find another phrase containing all the letters of the alphabet to save them from being unable to communicate. Eventually, the only letters remaining are LMNOP, when Ella finally discovers the pangram that will save their language.
Esquivalience, according to the August 29, 2005 New Yorker article "Ink: Not a Word" by Henry Alford, is a fictitious entry in the New Oxford American Dictionary (NOAD), which was designed and included to protect copyright of the publication. The word was invented by Christine Lindberg, one of the editors of the NOAD. It was leaked that the dictionary had put in a fake word in the letter "e" and Alford set out to find the word. It was discovered after review of a short list by several experts. When the editor, Erin McKean, was contacted she admitted that it was indeed a fake word and had been in since the first edition, in order to protect the copyright of the CD-ROM edition.
The word is defined as "the wilful avoidance of one's official responsibilities."