I. What is a Palindrome?
A palindrome is a type of word play in which a word or phrase spelled forward is the same word or phrase spelled backward. The word palindrome (pronounced ˈpa-lən-ˌdrōm) was invented in the early 1600s by the poet and playwright Ben Jonson, using Greek roots palin and dromos meaning “again” and “direction.”
II. Examples of Palindromes
Many palindromes exist, from single word palindromes to long phrasal palindromes. Here are a few examples:
Never odd or even.
When written backwards, the message reads the same: never odd or even.
Are we not drawn onward, we few, drawn onward to new era?
This palindrome, despite its somewhat confusing or strained meaning, stretches on for an entire sentence.
Perhaps eating dessert will rid one of stress with this funny palindrome!
III. Types of Palindromes
A. Words or Phrases
The most common form of palindrome, words or phrases can read the same forward and backward. Here are a few examples:
- Was it a car or a cat I saw?
- A Toyota’s a Toyota.
Palindromes spelled backwards, semordnilaps are words which spell new words when spelled backwards. Here are a few examples of semordnilaps:
- stressed becomes desserts
- reviled becomes deliver
- stop becomes pots
IV. The Importance of Using Palindromes
Palindromes are an example of how fun and interesting word play can be. Finding unique palindromes is a challenge, even for the most well-read people. Palindromes in mathematics can reveal interesting properties of numbers, and palindromes can also be found in musical composition and other areas of creative inquiry.
V. Examples of Palindromes in Literature
Knowing a poet and playwright coined the phrase palindrome, it is unsurprising that many authors have enjoyed using palindromes in their work. Here are a few examples of literary palindromes:
This onomatopoeic word was invented by James Joyce in the novel Ulysses for the sound of a knock on the door. It also happens to be a palindrome.
The protagonist in the novel Holes by Louis Sachar has a palindromic name: Stanley Yelnats. Perhaps such a name mirrors the whimsical yet strange nature of his story.
VI. Examples of Palindromes in Pop Culture
Some palindromes are so witty that they find their place in pop culture. Here are a few examples of palindromes in pop culture:
Rise to Vote, Sir.
This palindrome become so famous it was featured on an episode of The Simpsons. Members of MENSA, an organization of geniuses, use palindromes to communicate in code.
Stress is just Desserts spelled backwards.
This specific palindrome, or semordnilap, has become popular because it reminds us that stress should not overwhelm us, as it’s only dessert spelled backwards.
Weird Al’s “Bob”
I, man, am regal – a German am I
Never odd or even
If I had a hi-fi
Madam, I’m Adam
Too hot to hoot
No lemons, no melon
Too bad I hid a boot
Lisa Bonet ate no basil
Warsaw was raw
Was it a car or a cat I saw?
It seems Weird Al Yankowic is the modern king of palindromes. His song “Bob” is entirely made of a large collection of palindromes.
VII. Related Terms
Anagrams, like palindromes, are a type of word play involving rearrangement of letters. Whereas palindromes simply read the word backwards, anagrams rearrange letters and words to form new words and phrases. Here are a few examples of anagrams:
- Tom Cruise becomes So I’m Cuter
- The Morse Code becomes Here Comes Dots
- Rats becomes Tars
VII. In Closing
Palindromes are a reflection of how language can be rearranged to reveal the same message twice or a new message entirely, just by turning a word around. Palindromes can be found in math, music, science, and English and other languages.