Vo­cab

Friday - - Mind Games -

Palin­dromes – words that read the same back­wards, if you came in late – are an en­dur­ing source of de­light and in­trigue to word puz­zlers, who are al­ways look­ing for new ex­am­ples, or witty spins on ex­ist­ing ones.

An idle thought to start us off: which are the most ver­sa­tile palin­dromes – those with the most mean­ings? Jeff and Pat Grant of New Zealand (hav­ing time to spare, as re­quired by the rules of the word lovers’ union) have re­searched the sub­ject and found Gig and Pop to be two prime con­tenders. Did you know that Gig is a set of feath­ers that re­volves rapidly in the wind to at­tract birds into a net, and that Pop is to sur­prise in an an­noy­ing way? But the grand­daddy of them is ap­par­ently Bob, boast­ing 160 dif­fer­ent mean­ings (drawn by the Grants from a wide range of ref­er­ences).

Mean­while, Susan Thorpe of Eng­land turned her at­ten­tion to seek com­mon­al­i­ties be­tween palin­dromes and Scrab­ble. She notes that when the let­ters of the word Su­per­man are as­signed their Scrab­ble val­ues, you get 11311311 – a palin­dromic nu­meral ar­range­ment. Susan went on to list a whole slew of palin­dromic (and tau­to­log­i­cal) Scrab­ble scores, find­ing as­ton­ish­ingly long ex­am­ples such as Bac­te­ri­otropic (31311111111313) and Over­ef­fu­sive (141114411141).

At the time of Sarah Palin’s fame/ no­to­ri­ety, James Man­cuso de­cided to have some fun with her last name, and wrote a spoof on the open­ing of a new Alaskan con­ven­tion cen­tre called – what else? – the Palin­drome. See how many ex­am­ples you can find in this ex­tract:

“This sparkling new civic cen­tre, known as the Palin­drome, lies in the heart of down­town Juneau on Kayak Street across from the head­quar­ters of Snow Bank.

‘It’s amaz­ing,’ said Tom Mot, of Ak­sala, Alaska; ‘when you stand in the ex­act mid­dle of the Palin­drome, each side is a mir­ror im­age of the other.’ Some find that gaz­ing at the mir­ror rim can be dis­ori­ent­ing. ‘Was it a car or a cat I saw?’ asked poor Anna Marie Ira­manna. ‘A Toy­ota,’ replied her hus­band Bob.

‘Gov­er­nor Palin’s tire­less ef­forts over the past few years made this a re­al­ity,’ said Ste­wart Rawets, Di­rec­tor of the Palin­drome. Gov­er­nor Palin in­deed wrote ten mem­o­randa in support of the cen­tre be­fore the plan was ac­cepted. Why not nine? ‘Some men in­ter­pret nine memos.’”

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