Most of us have heard of palindrome sentences, phrases, or words that are the same forward and back. Some common examples include:
- Madam, I’m Adam.
Which can be extended to
- Madam, in Eden, I’m Adam.
Here’s another example:
- A nut for a jar of tuna.
Palindromes that spell a different word backwards are semordnilaps.
- Live to evil is an example of a semordnilap.
Read semordnilap backward, and you’ll notice that it is a palindrome of palindrome.
The Big Picture
Palindromes aren’t necessary for learning a language, but they serve several purposes.
Engagement. At its heart, language is not about grammar and rules. Those things are essential for communication, but the purpose of language is self-expression. Word puzzles are not only for an epeolatrist (a worshipper of words) but anyone who uses language. And that would be, at minimum, everyone reading this.
Focus. It doesn’t take much thought to notice a name like Hannah is a palindrome. However, focus is needed to ensure that “a nut for a jar of tuna” is a palindrome. And writing palindrome sentences requires even more.
And what about Satanoscillatemymetallicsonatas? That’s the title of a bonus CD Soundgarden included with some editions of their album, Badmotorfinger. How would you prove it’s a palindrome?
Except for wordplay, palindromes don’t seem to have any practical purposes. But they have applications in biology, mathematics, and computer science.
- Biology. Palindromes play essential roles in the study of genomes. DNA palindromes are necessary for protein building. Chromosome breakage happens because of weak palindromes, and geneticists study them because of their role in the growth of cancer cells and their mutations.
- Math. Palindromes are not limited to language. Most numerical palindromes are a Geek version of language palindromes. Math palindromes focus on solving problems, such as finding palindromic primes or squares. You can find Fermat primes, Lychrel numbers, Scheherazade numbers, and more if you want to explore palindromes and numbers.
- Computers. For example, a programmer might create an algorithm for calculating all palindrome substrings in a string. This algorithm can then be used to find palindromes in matrixes. In addition, writing a program that detects or creates palindromes can be included in coursework for computer science classes.
How it Works
Start with the middle if you want to write palindrome sentences. Palindromists make lists of words that could be used to create a palindrome sentence.
- Begin with reversible words like civic, radar, level, or rotor.
- Or words like these: Time/emit, doom/mood, or rail/liar
- Reversible names like Bob, Eve, or Hannah work well as palindrome starters.
- Words ending with -ed or -screate plurals, possessives, or past tense words. For example, taps/spat or faced/decaf.
To read more about Mark Saltveit–“The King of Palindromes”–here’s a profile in Harvard Magazine. He is the editor of The Palindromist Magazine, the subject of a short documentary, A Man, A Plan, a Palindrome, and he and other palindromists are the subjects of the documentary The Palindromists (check out the trailer here).
If you have ailihphilia, you got a kick out of this short post. And if you had aibohphobia, hopefully a little knowledge helped you overcome your fear of about things you can say backwards. And if you are a lover of all things language, we have an article for you.
Remember, to start in the middle if you want to try your hand at writing palindrome sentences.