a word or phrase the letters of which, when taken in reverse
order, give the same word or phrase, such as able was I ere I
saw Elba (Collins).
Karin Anderson suggests "if you wish to write a Palindrome
yourself look at the example on
, decide on a theme, and begin with a phrase or small group of
words that read
both ways and build on them gradually. It will take time, but it
is a challenge and is well worth it when the final result is
produced and others say 'that is so clever'".
**A palindrome is a word, phrase, number or other sequence of
units that can be read the same way in either direction (the
adjustment of punctuation and spaces between words is generally
permitted). Composing literature in palindromes is an example of
constrained writing. The word "palindrome" was coined from Greek
roots pálin (πάλιν; "again") and drómos (δρóμος; "way,
direction") by English writer Ben Jonson in the 1600s. The
actual Greek phrase to describe the phenomenon is karkinikê
epigrafê (καρκινική επιγραφή; crab inscription), or simply
karkiniêoi (καρκινιήοι; crabs), alluding to the backward
movement of crabs, like an inscription which can be read
Palindromes date back at least to 79 AD; they existed in Hebrew,
ancient Sanskrit, Latin and many other languages
various types of Palindromes including Characters, Phrases,
Famous Quotations, Names, Words and lines.
The most familiar palindromes, in English at least, are
character-by-character: the written characters read the same
backwards as forwards. Some examples of palindromic words:
civic, radar, level, rotator, rotor, kayak, reviver, racecar,
Palindromes often consist of a phrase or sentence ("Go hang a
salami I'm a lasagna hog.", "Was it a rat I saw?", "Step on no
pets", "Sit on a potato pan, Otis", "Lisa Bonet ate no basil",
"Satan, oscillate my metallic sonatas", "I roamed under it as a
tired nude Maori", "Yo banana boy", "Rise to vote sir", or the
exclamation "Dammit, I'm mad!"). Punctuation, capitalization,
and spacing are usually ignored, although some (such as "Rats
live on no evil star") include the spacing.
Three famous English palindromes are "Able was I ere I saw
Elba" (which is also palindromic with respect to spacing), "A
man, a plan, a canal, Panama!", and "Madam, I'm Adam".
Some people have names that are palindromes. Lon Nol (1913–1985)
was Prime Minister of Cambodia. Nisio Isin is a Japanese
novelist and manga writer, whose real name (西尾 維新, Nishio Ishin)
is a palindrome when romanized using Kunrei-shiki or Nihon-shiki
(it is often written as NisiOisiN to emphasize this). Some
changed their name in order to be a palindrome (one example is
actor Robert Trebor), while others were given a palindromic name
at birth (such as philologist Revilo P. Oliver and
Korean-American Mike Kim). Palindromic names are very common
in Finland. Examples include Emma Lamme, Sanna Rannas, Anni
Linna and Asko Oksa. "Stanley Yelnats" is the name of a
character in "Holes", a 1998 novel and 2006 film.
Some palindromes use words as units rather than letters.
Examples are "Fall leaves after leaves fall", "You can cage a
swallow, can't you, but you can't swallow a cage, can you?",
"First Ladies rule the State and state the rule: ladies first"
and "Girl, bathing on Bikini, eyeing boy, sees boy eyeing bikini
on bathing girl". The command "Level, madam, level!", composed
only of words that are themselves palindromes, is both a
character-by-character and a word-by-word palindrome.
Still other palindromes take the line as the unit. The poem
Doppelgänger, composed by James A. Lindon, is an example.
The dialogue "Crab Canon" in Douglas Hofstadter's Gödel, Escher,
Bach is nearly a line-by-line palindrome. The second half of the
dialog consists, with some very minor changes, of the same lines
as the first half, but in reverse order and spoken by the
opposite characters (i.e., lines spoken by Achilles in the first
half are spoken by the Tortoise in the second, and vice versa).
In the middle is a non-symmetrical line spoken by the Crab, who
enters and spouts some nonsense, apparently triggering the
reversal. The structure is modeled after the musical form known
as crab canon, in particular the canon a 2 cancrizans of Johann
Sebastian Bach's The Musical Offering.
has also been used in Classical and contemporary music.
Joseph Haydn's Symphony No. 47 in G is nicknamed "the
Palindrome". The third movement, minuet and trio is a musical
palindrome. This clever piece goes forward twice and backwards
twice and arrives back at the same place.
W.A. Mozart's Scherzo-Duetto di Mozart is played by one
violinist as written and the second with the same music
The interlude from Alban Berg's opera Lulu is a palindrome, as
are sections and pieces, in arch form, by many other composers,
including James Tenney, and most famously Béla Bartók. George
Crumb also used musical palindrome to text paint the Federico
Garcia Lorca poem "¿Porque nací?", the first movement of three
in his fourth book of Madrigals. Igor Stravinsky's final
composition, The Owl and the Pussy Cat, is a palindrome.
In 1975, the Swedish pop group ABBA had a hit single titled
"SOS", a unique occasion in which a song's title and the name of
its recording artist are both palindromes.
The title track of the 1992 album entitled UFO Tofu by Béla
Fleck and the Flecktones is said by its composer to be a musical
Shadow Poetry cites contemporary poetry examples.
"palindrome." Collins English Dictionary - Complete &
Unabridged 10th Edition. HarperCollins Publishers. 01
Aug. 2010. <Dictionary.com
Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. 01 Aug. 2010. <en.wikipedia.org
The New Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics.
Alex Preminger and T.V.F. Brogan, editors. New York: MJF
Books, Princeton University Press, 1993, p. 874.