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.’”