August 30, 2005

Mixed messages

So I was looking up "palindrome" in the online Columbia encyclopedia at for a boring reason, and the entry read, in full, "See anagram." Well, that's odd, I thought. So I went over to "anagram", and this is what it had to say about palindromes:

An anagram that reads the same backward as forward is a palindrome, e.g., “Able was I ere I saw Elba.”

Um...what? I guess that makes sense if we consider that any phrase can be anagrammed to spell itself.

Posted by Francis at 10:48 PM

That is most strange. Stranger is that only the encyclopedia seems to be remiss; the dictionaries and thesauri and fable dictionaries (?. !.) that are on all give fine explanations of "palindrome" independent of "anagram." Maybe as of 2001 palindrome stopped enjoying independent status.

I generally trust Wikipedia with such inquiries, which is like totally weird, since Wikipedia is fly-by-night-user-created-and-vetted-which-means-you-really-have-no-idea-what-you're-getting, rather than written by real encyclopedia people. But hey, here's one example where it'd have given you a better answer, at least.

Posted by: polyglot conspiracy at August 30, 2005 11:37 PM

This may be a totally stupid question, but have you heard (seen the video) for the Weird Al song "Bob" (a sendup of Dylan and pailendromes all at once)?

I laughed till I almost peed and my family could not for the life of them understand what I thought was so funny, even after I explained it.

It is hard to live with an odd sense of what is funny.

Posted by: Scarff aka Rick at August 31, 2005 01:43 AM

That song is one of the most brilliant things Weird Al has ever done.

I am also inordinately fond of "It's All About the Pentiums".

Posted by: Francis at August 31, 2005 01:54 AM

But...but...but where's the anagram in "Able was I..."? The "ere" is in there just once. Doofuses.

Posted by: Orange at August 31, 2005 09:49 AM

Hm. Good point, Orange. I think the whole thing is supposed to be an anagram of itself? This whole thing confuses me.

Other songs about palindromes: "I, Palindrome, I" by TMBG and "Fake Palindromes" by Andrew Bird.

Posted by: polyglot conspiracy at August 31, 2005 11:09 AM

Ah, yes, TMBG. "I palindrome I. Man, o nam." Could there be any more sensible lyrics?

Posted by: Orange at August 31, 2005 06:16 PM

Don't forget Ookla the Mok's "Rats Live on No Evil Star."

Posted by: Fafner at September 1, 2005 10:45 PM