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Palindromes - Part Two


Palindromes - Part Two

Mirror image Palindrome

What is a palindrome?:

As mentioned in Palindromes - Part 1, the word 'PALINDROME' comes from the Greek word palindromos, which means 'running back again'. A palindrome is any word, line, or even complete poem which reads the same backwards as it does forwards.

Able was I...:

There are many good examples of palindromes in English and most people know a few (especially the more famous ones).
'Able was I ere I saw Elba'

is attributed to Napoleon but, in my opinion, it's doubtful he ever said any such thing. After all, he was a Frenchman.

Probably the most widely known example is

'A man, a plan, a canal- Panama'

Written to honor the man who built the Panama canal, it is credited to Leigh Mercer. This is also one of the best palindromes in the English language.

Good ones tend to be short...:

Good palindromes tend to be short as longer ones invariably sacrifice sense for form and slip into convoluted grammar. Henry Purcell, the composer, is said to have written:

'Egad! A base tone denotes a bad age.'

Other good examples are:

Draw, O coward!
Niagara, O roar again!
Nurse, I spy gypsies. Run!
(not politically correct)

Proverbial palindromes:

Sex at noon taxes
Dennis and Edna sinned
Live not on evil

Longer ones make less sense...:

Generally, the longer the palindrome, the less sense it makes. However, these longer examples are clever and use some surprisingly long words.

Harass sensuousness, Sarah.
Straw? No, too stupid a fad. I put soot on warts.
Doc, note. I dissent. A fast never prevents a fatness. I diet on cod.

Quest for the perfect palindrome...:

Alastair Reid was a dedicated palindrome writer who summed up the quest for a good palindrome in this way:

The dream which preoccupies the tortuous mind of every palindromist is that somewhere within the confines of the language lurks the Great Palindrome, a nutshell which not only fulfils the intricate demands of the art, flowing sweetly in both directions, but which also contains the Final Truth of Things.

Reid's longest creation was:
T. Eliot, top bard, notes putrid tang emanating, is sad. I'd assign it a name: 'Gnat dirt upset on drab pot toilet'.

Palindromes in French...:

As noted in Palindromes - Part 1, early palindromes were written in Greek and then in Latin. However, other cultures also took up the search for the elusive palindrome.

In French:
'Eh, ça va, la vache?'

In Spanish:
'Dabale arroz a la zorra el abad'

Reverse words instead of letters...:

Some palindromes reorder complete words instead of each letter. These tend to make more sense. The writer, J. A. Lindon, was somewhat of an expert at this. He created the following:

So patient a doctor to doctor a patient so.
Girl, bathing on Bikini, eying boy, finds boy eying bikini on bathing girl.

An epitaph in a churchyard in Cornwall reads:

Shall we all die?
We shall die all;
All die shall we-
Die all we shall.

Symmetrical letters...:

Another form of palindrome consists of words which contain symmetrical letters that look the same when turned upside down or viewed in a mirror (see image above):


Longest palindromic word?:

There are several seven-letter palindromes:

Nine-letter palindromes include:
EVITATIVE, REDIVIDER, ROTAVATOR (trade-name), and MALAYALAM (East Indian language)

Eleven-letter palindromes:
KINNIKINNIK (tobacco used by American Indians)
OOLOOPOOLOO (dialect spoken in Australia)

World's longest palindrome...:

In 1980, Giles Selig Hales claimed to have written 'the world's longest palindrome'. It consisted of 58,795 letters.

In 1967, Joyce Johnson wrote one of the best long palindromes for a New Statesman competition. It has 126 words and 467 letters:


Test on Eramus
Deliver slap
Royal: phone no.?
Ref. Football
Is sofa sitable on?
XI-Staff over
Sub-edit Nurse's order
Caning is on test (snub slip-up)
Birch (Sid) to help Miss Eve
Repaper den
Use it
Put inkspot on stopper
Prof.-no space
Caretaker (wall, etc.)
Too many d-pots
Wal for duo? (I'd name Dr O)
See few owe fees (or demand IOU)
Dr of Law
Stop dynamo (OTC)
Tel: Law re Kate Race
Caps on for prep
Pots-no tops
Knit up ties ('U')
Ned (re paper)
Eve's simple hot dish (crib)
Pupil's buns
T-set: no sign in a/c
Red roses
Run Tide Bus?
Rev off at six
Noel Bat is a fossil
Lab to offer one 'Noh' play-or 'Pals Reviled'?
Sums are not set

In conclusion...:

To conclude with an interesting bit of relevant trivia:
There is a town in California named Yreka and it had a bakery called, Yreka Bakery. Hmm... food for thought.
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