A couple of weeks ago, we had a very special date. Lots of people decided to talk about it on social media, which means we know it’s important, right?
At the beginning of this month, the date looked very pleasing: 02/02/2020.
Nice, isn’t it?
One of the reasons that date looks so good is that it reads the same backwards as it does forwards.
Go on — try it!
Words, phrases and sentences (and dates) that read the same forwards and backwards are called palindromes.
So, in order to celebrate this historic event, here’s a selection of English palindromes.
Imagine it! Norway in the summer!
You’re in your kayak slicing through the calm, beautiful waters of one of the country’s majestic fjords without a care in the world.
A kayak is a kind of boat. It looks like this:
This word has a lot of uses.
We usually use it as an adjective to describe something flat:
“Let’s wait until we reach level ground before taking a break.”
But we often use it idiomatically.
We talk about reaching the next level when we get a promotion or get better at a skill.
Also, if you think someone isn’t telling you the truth, you can say, “Hey! Come on! Can you just level with me for a minute?”
You know her!
In America they sometimes say “mom.”
Which is also a palindrome. But “mummy” isn’t. So there.
Yep. Him, too.
Another, rather old-fashioned, word for “dad” is “pop.”
Which is also a palindrome.
There’s something satisfying about this.
Noon is right in the middle of the day, right?
So there’s an equal amount of time before and after it.
Just like there are equal letters before and after the middle of a palindrome.
Vrrrrrm vrrrrm vrrrrm!
That’s my impression of a racecar.
Not good, right?
That’s probably because the only things I know about racecars are from the Herbie films.
Radar isn’t just a palindrome.
It’s also an acronym — it stands for “radio detecting and ranging.”
Do you work out?
If you don’t have time or can’t afford to go to the gym, one thing you can do is get one of those metal bars you can attach to the top of a doorway in your house.
Then you can do pullups.
But make sure it’s attached, yeah?
Ahhh … Kazakhstan! One of the least-visited countries in the world.
But there’s so much cool stuff there.
Including the entrance to hell!
No, just kidding. That’s the Darvaza gas crater — a gas field that was set on fire and has been burning since 1971.
You’ll also meet lots of Kazaks in Kazakhstan. Obviously.
But you’ll only get the palindrome points if you meet one single Kazak. Because “Kazaks” isn’t a palindrome.
(By the way, this is actually a less-common spelling. “Kazakh” is more common. But it’s not a palindrome. So that’s no fun.)
Like “noon,” I find it quite pleasing that both “boob” and “tit” are palindromes.
Without getting into too much detail, these are both slang words for the female breast.
Why is it cool that they’re palindromes?
Well, think about it — there are (usually) two of them and they’re (usually) symmetrical — much like the two halves of a palindrome.
(Update: I’ve now written the word “palindrome” so many times that I’ve kind of forgotten what my name is and which colour blue is.)
OK, so those were a selection of some of the most common (or amusing) single-word palindromes.
But now things are about to get spicy!
That’s because palindromes made up of phrases, or even full sentences, can be funny, impressive, mind-boggling and, in some cases, even insightful.
Yep! Don’t do it! They’ll kill you!
Just joking. No one’s going to kill you, probably.
But joking aside, this phrase might come in handy in India or Bulgaria.
Well, in both of these countries, instead of nodding your head to mean “yes,” you do a sort of wobbly shake of the head.
I have no idea why those two very different countries in particular have this physical expression.
But they do!
I did, did I?
Well, I suppose you did do, dude.
Yep! This is the sort of thing you might hear people say on a regular basis.
What did I tell you? Palindromes are everywhere!
Step on no pets
Maybe less common, but still very good advice.
I mean, pets hate it when you step on them.
Was it a cat I saw?
It might’ve been.
But then again, it might just have been Barry.
Barry loves dressing up as a cat and walking around at night.
Was it a bat I saw?
And there’s another one!
No lemon, no melon
This one is quite fun.
I mean — I can really imagine someone looking in the fridge and saying this.
No melon, no lemon
Yes! They could also say this, too!
The meaning is exactly the same AND you get extra palindrome points!
Do geese see god?
We all reach that certain point in our lives when we can’t avoid having to ask this question.
It happens to us all sooner or later.
It’s a simple enough question.
But the answer?
The answer is mysterious and elusive.
And that is the tragedy of the human condition.
Dammit, I’m mad!
Once you’ve asked that goose question, then you might need to tell yourself this.
A man, a plan, a canal: Panama
This is the “smells like teen spirit” of palindromes.
By that, I mean that this is often the classic example you give to explain what palindromes are and why they’re so, so cool.
And this one is very cool.
I like it because it tells the whole story of Panama in one simple (and symmetrical) set of words.
A man, a pain, a mania: Panama
Or … if you want to add some tragedy to your story, there’s this more cynical version.
Cain: a maniac
I couldn’t stop myself from laughing when I saw this one.
I love it when a story can be told in very few words.
This one manages it while also somehow managing to be hilarious at the same time.
By the way — if you like big stories told in few words, then check out the tragic origins of “flash fiction”.
OK. I admit it: this isn’t particularly useful AT ALL!
But how could I turn down the opportunity to draw a taco cat?
If I had a hi-fi …
… I would be back in the ‘90s when people still jumped around at concerts and everyone thought that bright tracksuits were somehow OK.
OK — you see right through me!
When you see the opportunity to draw some nurses running, you NEVER miss that opportunity.
… and once you’ve got running nurses and ‘90s hi-fis, you know that there’s nothing that can beat that in the world of palindromes.
So, that is where this post must end!
Gabriel Clark, LOS Consultant & Clark and Miller Co-founder