Friday, February 11, 2011

Posted by Laurel Garver on Friday, February 11, 2011 21 comments
For most of the world, today's date is 11-02-2011, a palindrome. You know, something that can be read the same forward and backward. I suppose we wacky Americans will celebrate on November 2, since our convention is to write dates in month, day, year format.

Palindromes are the math of language--more about pattern than meaning per se. People who are good at creating them are guaranteed to slaughter you at Scrabble. But someone with this kind of mind this makes a great addition to your reading team, because he or she will catch every echo, missing word and spelling error, saving you from many embarrassments.

One of my favorite fictional characters, Adah in Barbara Kingsolver's The Poisonwood Bible, habitually plays palindrome games in her head. Adah walks with a limp--unsymmetrical movement. Yet intellectually, she loves symmetry and especially "palindromes, with their perfect, satisfying taste." She explains:

"When I finish reading a book from front to back, I read it back to front. It is a different book, back to front, and you can learn new things from it. It from things new learn can you and front to back book different a is it?

"You can agree or not, as you like. This is another way to read it, although I am told a normal brain will not grasp it: Ti morf sgniht wen nrael can uoy dna tnorf ot kcab koob tnereffid a si ti. The normal, I understand, can see words my way only if they are adequately poetic: Poor Dan is in a droop" (p. 56).

I can't say my brain naturally works like Adah's, but I do find palindromes fun and fascinating. Here are a few favorites I found online:

Was it a car or a cat I saw?
Lisa Bonet ate no basil.
No trace, not one carton.
Nurse, I spy gypsies. Run!
I saw desserts; I’d no lemons, alas no melon! Distressed was I.

There are loads more at The Biggest List of Palindromes Online.

Have a favorite palindrome? What word games do you like to play? What would be a good way to celebrate Palindrome Day?

21 comments:

  1. I didn't realize it was a palindrome day! Also, I think I need to read the Poisonwood Bible now. It sounds lovely.

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  2. Hooray for palindromes!! I'm no good at creating them, but they have a calming effect on me for some reason.

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  3. Huzzah! Happy PD! :) (and Friday)

    (I loved the Poisonwood Bible)

    I can always count on something interesting when I visit you here, Laurel.
    Thanks for being you.

    *hugs*

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  4. So cool! I love seeing those things, but I don't think I'd ever notice they were palindromes. My dominent right brain just doesn't grasp those little calculating details ;p I read the Poisonwood Bible and it was great. It's been a LONG time and I had forgotten about that.

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  5. What a fun post. Palindromes are clever to read and hard to do (at least for me). I can't imagine reading a whole book that way!

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  6. Adah was my favorite character in The Poisonwood Bible. Happy Palindrome Day! :-)

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  7. Didn't know this day existed. Thanks for sharing. :)

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  8. I had no idea there was a Palindrome Day; cool post!

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  9. Michelle: We've been on the BBC site a lot lately, where they do dates day, month, year. :-)

    Karen: Probably it's the the symmetry that soothes you, like it does for Kinsolver's Adah character.

    Lola: Ha! I guess Fridays are when I let my freak flag fly, so to speak. :-) You know, when I blog about whatever goofy, random thing pops into my head.

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  10. Abby: Yeah, I'm kind of in awe of people who can see and create patterns like this. They're usually superb musicians, too!

    Tricia: Complex, aren't they? I'm much more a contextual reader, looking always for meaning rather than necessarily reading every last letter on the page.

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  11. Shannon: Kingsolver blew me away with that book--especially her ability to create all those very distinctive voices and ways of looking at the world for her characters.

    Kindros: I heard about it from some international source--someone from the UK. Just one of those goofy things people notice, it's not like a real holiday. Just fun.

    GE: I suppose it should be called "International Palindrome Day." American Palindrome day will be November 2! Save the date. LOL.

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  12. My 13-year-old son has the strangest talent. If you say a word to him, he'll tell you what the word is spelled backwards - no hesitation, no figuring it out, he just spits the answer right out. I never could understand how he could do that, but he'd probably love that palindrome site you mentioned.

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  13. I love palindromes, and occasionally have been known to try and see things backwards. Was it Bach or Beethoven (gosh, I think it was one of them) who wrote a piece that could be played the same either right side up or upside down?
    I have a friend named Tacy Staron--she thought it funny as a child that backwards, her name spelled, "No Rats. Y? Cat." :)

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  14. Susan: That's an interesting gift. I wonder if he's also good at anagrams--in which you rearrange letters in words to make new words.

    Faith: I think you're right. I believe it's Bach. Doesn't he also have some canons that can be played forwards by one musician and backwards by another, simultaneously, and they harmonize?

    And I love your friend's backwards rendition of her name. Awesome!!

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  15. Those are clever palindromes. I'm in love with words, but I haven't really played word games.

    Have a great weekend.

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  16. oh, I forgot about Adah's palindrome obsession from PB! I loved that book--it's been a long time since I read it, though... What's the one everyone says? Able was I ere I saw Elba?

    Have a great V-day~ :o) <3

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  17. How fun! I love word games of every kind, but I had no idea there was a Palindrome Day. Very cool :)

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  18. I didn't even know it was called a palindrome until today, but now I'll be looking for them.

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  19. Oooh, now I have to read TPB!

    I wrote a poem once where one of the characters used "Madam, I'm Adam," as a cheesy pick up line.

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  20. Medeia: Some word games really help you write more creatively--Taboo for example, requires you to describe something without using any of the usual cliched associations.

    Leigh: Hard to believe PB came out like 13 years ago. Those characters still stick with me.

    Sherrie: It's nothing official really. Just a fun pattern (11-02-2011) a British friend had mentioned.

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  21. Patti: linguists love labeling things. :-)

    Lisa: It is one of the best studies in character voice I've ever read. Kingsolver manages to have five, maybe six very distinct voices.

    Love the pick up line story. Priceless.

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