Green Eggs and Ham

Did Dr. Seuss take a dare he could write a book using fewer than fifty different words?

Claim:   Dr. Seuss wrote Green Eggs and Ham after being challenged by his editor to produce a book using fewer than fifty different words.

Status:   True.

Origins:   Many

Green Eggs and Ham

of us grew up enjoying the wildly imaginative rhyming works written and illustrated by Theodor Seuss Geisel, better known to us as Dr. Seuss. Bartholomew and the Oobleck, If I Ran the Zoo, Horton Hears a Who!, How the Grinch Stole Christmas and many other books involving “ludicrous situations pursued with relentless logic” were the core of many a child’s personal library. In 1957, Seuss produced a classic children’s tale, The Cat in the Hat, using only the words on an average first-grader’s vocabulary list. This work was followed by a series of books employing an ever more limited vocabulary: Ten Apples up on Top!, Hop on Pop, Fox in Socks, and the book that initiated this trend (and is perhaps the best known of all of Seuss’ efforts), Green Eggs and Ham.

What prompted this minimalist trend by Dr. Seuss? A dare from his editor, Bennett Cerf, that he write a book using no more than fifty different words. Seuss took Cerf up on his challenge and produced a classic children’s work many of us can still recite from memory.

Last updated:   12 July 2007


  Sources Sources:

    MacDonald, Ruth K.   Dr Seuss.

    Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1988.   ISBN 0-8057-7524-2   (pp. 138-139).

    Silverman, Betsy M.   “Dr. Seuss Talks to Parents.”

    Parents.   November 1960   (p. 137).