PSA: Fun With Palindromes

If you thought Sheldon’s Fun With Flags was a hoot, you’re going to love this. Vexillology got nuthin on logology.

Palindrome Week+

Those who write dates in the format m-dd-yy have a special week+ to celebrate from June 10 to June 19, 2016.  For ten consecutive days, the dates are numeric palindromes: 61016, 61116, etc., with the series breaking on the 20th (62016). Every century has 9 years with 10 Palindrome Days in a row. So, it is Aibohphobia awareness week, in a way.  June 10th is also a palindrome in d-mm-yyyy format: 6102016. There will be 12 palindrome pays in the 21st century in the mm-dd-yyyy format. The first was October 2, 2001 (10022001) and the last will be 09022090.

What’s in a Palindrome?

A palindrome is a sequence that is the same backwards as forwards. Symmetry’s implication of balance is pleasing to humans.  The word palindrome comes from the Greek palíndromos, meaning running back again (palín = AGAIN + drom–, drameîn = RUN).

Logology is the manipulation of meanings, arrangements, sounds, spellings, and other aspects of words and letters.

“Logology, defined as ‘the science of words’ by The Oxford English Dictionary, consists of two overlapping 5-letter palindromes, LOGOL and GOLOG, followed by a 1-letter palindrome, Y. It is also, by auspicious accident, what is known as a second-order reduplication . . .. As for balance, the careful observer of words discovers that the word alternates not merely vowels and consonants, but letters from the first and last halves of the alphabet. Furthermore, if we replace each letter with the number indicating its position in the alphabet (A=1, B=2, etc.), and add the numbers, the sum turns out to be 108. Dividing 108 by 8 (the number of letters in the word) yields an average of precisely 13.5, showing us that the letters constituting logology are balanced around the exact midpoint of the alphabet, halfway between M and N. Few, indeed, are the words that achieve such an absolute balance!

“Add to all this the fact that logology avoids using any of the 5 most common English letters (E, T, A, I, and S), and you realize that it is, very fittingly, the finest English word every formed.”
(Dmitri A. Borgmann, Language on Vacation: An Olio of Orthographical Oddities. Scribner’s, 1965)

Lexical palindromes are words and phrases reflecting the bilateral symmetry of art.  In the sciences of nature and biology, symmetry is approximate and creates patterns; in math, symmetry is exact. (I swear it is like Heraclitus and Parmenides are duking it out everywhere.) In language and art, there is balancing and playful banter of the two. The word-play of palindromes can generate complex expressions,  philosophical undercurrents, or just downright silliness & fun.  I don’t know about your world, but the one i experience could benefit from more intentional silliness.

Semordnilaps (the word palindromes in reverse) are words that spell other words when spelled backwards (for example, star/rats, stop/pots, drawer/reward).

A palindrome’s self-referential nature is a yummy candy mobius strip for the mind.  Would two palindromes strung together create a Klienendrome?  That’s a topic for a philosophical discussion over a bottle if ever there was one.

Speaking of imagery, mirror palindromes are words that appear the same in their reflection (visual reversal on an axis.  So, for example, bid would be a mirror palindrome; Bid would simply be a palindrome.

Some Palindromic Names:

  • Lon Nol was a was Prime Minister of Cambodia
  • Nisio Isin was a Japanese novelist
  • Robert Trebor was an actor
  • Stanley Yelnats is a character of a movie Holes

There are simple palindromes like mom, bob, wow, and poop, and leveling-up to increasingly complex palindromes using creative license to adjust for spaces and capital letters (and meaning). This becomes a challenge, puzzle, and can be employed as a literary technique called constrained writing.  This means employing some boundary (as the Haiku and other measures in poetry), focusing the artist on solution-driven creativity.

Entering the lonely house with my wife
I saw him for the first time
Peering furtively from behind a bush …

Blackness that moved,
A shape amid the shadows,
A momentary glimpse of gleaming eyes
Revealed in the ragged moon …

A closer look (he seemed to turn) might have
Revealed in the ragged moon
A momentary glimpse of gleaming eyes
A shape amid the shadows,
Blackness that moved.

Peering furtively from behind a bush,
I saw him, for the first time
Entering the lonely house with my wife.

(A Line-Unit Palindrome Poem, “Doppelgänger” by  James A. Lindon)

According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the longest single word that is a mirror image of itself is saippuakivikauppias (19 letters), which is Finnish for a dealer in lye (caustic soda).  They also note that some baptismal fonts in Greece and Turkey bear the circular 25-letter inscription NIYON ANOMHMATA MH MONAN OYIN, meaning wash (my) sins, not only (my) face. This appears at St Marys Church, Nottingham, at St Pauls, Woldingham, Surrey and at other churches.

It’s Haydn in music, but you can find it.

In music, the palindromesque canon cancrizans, or “crab canon”, technique was originally a musical term for a kind of canon where one line is reversed in time from the other, but had evolved to mean an arrangement of two musical lines that are complementary and backward, similar to a palindrome. Note:  Phrase “Crab canon” came form the misconception that crabs walk backwards. The implications of spacial inversion or temporal reversal can convey philosophical nuances within the music.  While mirror elements exist within larger works, there are also full compositions in the form.

The art of composing music that could be played backwards and forwards with focus on a tonal center is extremely difficult, adding a challenging puzzle to the work of musical composition. This technique is criticized for being selfish and cocky-show-offy on the part of the composer because it is anti-climactic and lacks a musical apex / tension release of engaging scores. Franz Joseph Hayden, one of my favorite composers because of his wonderful sense of humor and how he weaves it into his music, has a piece, Symphony no. 47 in G (1772),  titled The Palindrome because of its perfectly palindromic minuet (Menuet al Roverso).

View Bach’s Crab Canon on a Mobius strip: “The enigmatic Canon 1 à 2 from J. S. Bachs Musical Offering (1747), The manuscript depicts a single musical sequence that is to be played front to back and back to front. Video by Jos Leys ( and Xantox ( )”


FYI: Multiplying ones always gives you palindromic numbers.

In math, a palindrome is a number written in the form a1, a2, … a2, a1. A palindromic prime is a number that is simultaneously both a prime and a palindrome.  (or in diversity language, a number that experiences the intersectionality of being a number that is both prime and palindrome).  All single digits are palindromes, unless your philosophical perspective on the matter is that the single digit numbers (and correspondingly, single character words) don’t count as palindromes.  We score “9” again, as there are nine two-digit palindrome numbers, 90 with three digits, and 90 with four digits.  More fun with Palindrome Numbers on this Mathematical artistry site, click here for their Palindromes page.

My palindromic response to the Pi vs.Tau Smackdown argument: Dammit, i’m mad.  I prefer Pi.





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