Commentaries-I      (brief review of different types of palindromes)
(discussion of palindrome sentence “pivots”)
(an essay regarding palindrome sentences) 
(“multiple middles” )
(“perfect” palindromes)
Commentaries-VI   (on crafting and creating palindrome sentences)


        I think the distinction between the palindromic phrase (Yreka Bakery), sentence (Mail one rotten net to Reno, Liam.), prose (two or more sentences: Olive, do not die.  I’d to no devil, O!),  and poem (Never odd//Or even “mod”//Less seldom//Never odd or even.) may be fairly clear, but many have not considered the distinction between a LETTER UNIT palindromic piece and a WORD UNIT palindrome. (e.g. “Soldiers foot the bill, so bill the foot soldiers. “(200))  

Following are some sites for more examples:
check out Steven Fraser’s palindrome poems at  or Patience Agbabi’s video of her palindromic poem
Or try this site: is dedicated, exclusively, to (sensible!) single sentence, letter unit palindromes.  

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    Two reasons to create a palindromic sentence are because you can and besides it’s fun! Sometimes that motivation is enough. Other times I like the extra challenge of palindromizing a particular word [“Sit,” I say, “rot a gun, nun–nugatory as it is.”] or name(s) [Al, Liz dogs Godzilla!] But I have to admit, my most cherished challenge is the pivot.

    All letter-unit palindromic sentences pivot–most (90+%) about a single letter (alone, or paired), the rest about (some series of) repeated letters. Thus you can create a triple pivot, quadruple pivot and quintuple pivot (examples are from Timi Imit, except where attributed):

Triple Pivots:

“Do orbits all last?” I brood. (Michael Donner)
Last egg gets Al. (Jon Agee)
Zones sell, lessen Oz.

Quadruple Pivots:

Ma, I am all llama, I am.
Flee zoo ooze, elf! (Wayne Baisley)
Pupils on, Lee, flee eel–feel no slip-up!
Now a mall llama won. (David Morice)

Quintuple Pivots

Flee zoo, O ooze elf! (Chad Gagnon)
Dissed Art Lee, ‘e eel trades, Sid.
Bad, evil gull’ll lug live dab.
Dee’s boll’ll lob seed!
Bud did a AAA ad I’d dub.

    These “pure” pivots are great to discover, but there aren’t many frontiers left–except with the triple pivots.  So, I’ve expanded the concept-challenge with 2nd and 3rd degree higher order pivots. These are pivot runs that are interrupted–but only by a single letter (which, itself, may have varying degrees of repetition…!)

    Let’s start with the 2nd degree quadruple and sextuple pivots. They may have the patterns XXOXX, XXOOXXXXXOXXX or XXXOOXXX:

Stop, Syrian, I see bees in airy spots! (Dmitri Borkmann)
Emil, asleep, peels a lime. (Stephen Chism and/or Eugene Lesser)
Do good, do O God!
Al, y’all lull Layla.
Ma, I’ll lull Liam. (Eric Harshberger)
Deem foe: wan, I so bid, “I’ll loll libidos in awe of me, Ed!”
Otto made “Eel Lee Ed” a motto.

    Whereas the 2nd degree triple and quintuple pivots include these possibilities, XOXOXXOXXXOXXXOXOXX:

Amuse Potosi’s isotopes, Uma. (Nora Baron)
Evil on a martini–I (iit) ram an olive!
Do geese see God? (Victor Lemonte Wooten)
Sore Eros’ Sis is sore, Eros? (unknown)

    Now I’ll give you the third degree : XOXXOXXOXOXOX, XOXXOXXOXXXOXOOXOXX and XOXOXXXOXOX:

Naw, order M&M–M&M red, Rowan.
Ya, waa gaa way.
“Last regrets” is, Sis, sister Gert’s Al.
I wash Tom, Mama–a mammoth saw I! (Nora Baron)
“Did ewe–wee ewe we did!” (Harry Baron)

    Since a ‘quadrupled pair pivot’ can be XOXOOXOX or XOOXXOOX, it only stands to reason that a ‘sextupled pair pivot’ can be XOOXOXXOXOOX and the 3rd degree decatuple pair pivot would be XOOXOXYXOOXXOOXYXOXOOX:

Draw nnoon onward!
Sir, a jalapeno on no one pal ajar is.
Toot, Otto, toot! (Jon Agee)
Must love Reno on onnoon no one–no, no one!–revolts, um?

    To lighten up a bit, there’s the “ah ha,” “O Yo-Yo” and “SOS” pivots:

Odd…I know “ah ha!” won, kiddo.
“Daryl, I’d dig Ukiah haiku giddily–rad!”
Wonder if I made no Yo-Yo, Ned–am I fired now?
Even ail I, viceroy o’ yore, civilian Eve.
Ay, not too hot to hoot tons o’ snot; too hot to hoot Tonya. (Nora Baron)
Strap red nude, red rump–also slap murdered underparts! (J.A. Lindon)
Eva can ignite virtuosos out riveting in a cave. (author unknown)
A berry tastes O so ‘set’, satyr Reba.

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Joaquin Kuhn (English Department at St. Michael’s College, Toronto and author–with his wife– of  the book of palindromes, “RATS LIVE ON NO EVIL STAR”) wrote the following piece to Michael Donner regarding PALINDROMIC SENTENCES:

I have a very strong preference for palindrome sentences, whole ideas that incorporate a subject and a predicate, however wacky the complete utterance may be.  One of my reasons for this is that in human language, it is the sentence, the communication of a whole idea, that everything else exists for.  Not words in themselves, but words put together in meaningful patterns.  A palindrome that contains the grammatical pattern of a sentence but somehow floats free of ordinary logical sense is to me a special form of nonsense creation.  It invites closer and closer scrutiny, in hope of its yielding some sense, like a charm or oracular utterance in need of solution.  A palindrome sentence is created following two rigorous laws: it has basic grammatical structure, and the sequence of letters reverses in the middle (no exceptions!)  When such a rigorously composed group of words makes sense of any kind, it carries a kind of mystic appeal, as though when character sequences were turned back on themselves, they revealed extraordinary truths like Jungian shadows or subconscious doubles–mirror images of language of hermetic significance.  A palindromically uttered truth (bizarre though its content may be) seems doubly true.

                                                                       (from Michael Donner’s I Love Me, Vol.I) 

From Dr. Kuhn’s prose to Edward Hirsch’s poetry:

    “Whenever we enter the original waters of existence through the properties of language, when words deliver up the sensation of our own radical strangeness, then we have entered the realm of poetry and the sacred.” 

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     An interesting aspect of palindromic sentences is the special case of “multiple middles.”  The easiest series to help one understand this is the A Santa…at NASA  group that appears on Jim Kalb’s website (366) and is in

     A Santa spat taps at NASA; A Santa spits tips at NASA; A Santa taps Pat at NASA, etc.

     Nora Baron has created many shorter “multiple middle” series, many of which I have condensed for using slashes and brackets.  For example:  No, ’tis [Iris, sir/Ida Lee, lad], I sit on.  Following the ‘Eva, can I…in a cave?’ list are some of Nora’s larger multiple middle series.

     Some of the mid-20th century great palindromists published (in various places) these three variations on the  Eva, can I…in a cave?  “multiple middles” series:
        Eva, can I pose as Aesop in a cave?      Eva can, I see, bone no bees in a cave.
        Eva, can I stab live, evil bats in a cave?
        (Eva can ignite virtuosos out riveting in a cave?  was reported on the Net by John Jensen)

     There are currently three creative, prolific palindromists who have taken a special interest in this Eva can I…? series, so I’d like to showcase their collection here.  They are Bill A. O’Connor (254), Martin Clear (260) and Nora Baron (71). (They got me interested, so I tried my hand at a few)


                                                                                                                          in a cave?

Except those attributed, the following ‘multiple middles’ are the work of Nora Baron:

“Ed, I hide
              , cane me!” Lyle menaced, “
              , divided
              – I list Ev’s vests – I lied,
              , I rub Deb’s bed, buried,
              , I rub nuts, rub burst, unburied–
              ,” I say aside, ” 
               it–nude, red, untied,            
              ,” Kramer remarked, “
              ,” Ledo yodeled, “
              ,” Lia wailed, “
              Naomi,” I moan, “
              net safety-bag,” I gag, “a gigabyte, fastened–
              ,” Peewee weeped, “
              ,” Pru burped,”
              red rum; Bob murdered,              
              ,” Ron snored, “
              –so here, hosed, 
                                                                                I hide.” 

“Ed,” I hiss
        , “a giblet’s ape’s net=roll or tense pastel big ass
        , “a pit I pass– 
        , “a slip-up, a pupil’s ass (254)
        , “a Taft fat ass
        , “alas, Bob’s a lass–
        (an aside: Ed is an ass!), 
        an ass
        , “as I sass,”
        , “as pal Smith (Tim) slaps ass,
        , “Astor rapes a base parrot’s ass– (254)
        , “at a fast, it’s a fat ass
        , “Elfless, selfless,
        , Em, as I, is a mess–
        , “end a [bad/Dad-]ness (1)
        , “end a [m/s]adness,
        , “–er, Dan is in a dress– 
        , “I heard Rae hiss– (254)
        , ” 
        , I hid a cad,” I hiss,
        , “I hike – er – I reek,” I hiss, “
        , “I hired nags, pits, Tip’s gander,” I hiss, “
        , “I hired now a stiff–it’s a wonder,” I hiss, “
        , “I hiss – a pisser, a caress I pass–
        , “I hiss as I peel, sad, asleep–I sass,” I hiss,”
        , “I hiss as I peel Sam; I, hot nurses run to him,
                 asleep-I sass,” I hiss, “
        , “I hiss, ‘Ugh, Guss!'” I hiss, “
        , “I kiss – a [lass/bass] I kiss–
        , “I map a rill, I rap a Miss, (254)
        , “I met ten urbane men, a brunette miss–
        , “I’m Sid–ewes, a case we dismiss–
        , “I’m Sid–it’s a [can in a cast/cast/fast/last/man on a mast/man or a tar on a mast/mast/past] I dismiss–
        , “I’m Sid–it’s E.T.’s test I dismiss–

                                                                                                                        I hide[!]”

–babes (71)
Bes… (237)
, do tame no nematodes– (71, 144)
, dude’s (144)
farts – Bob strafes – (71)
gages (144)
, I boo boobies– (71)
, I burp or drop rubies– (71)
, I burp up rubies– (71)
, I bury my rubies– (71)
,” I call, after cesspit level tips, “secret fallacies (260)
, I democratise cinema game: nice sitar comedies (260)
, I dunk nudies– (71)
, I go, “Lana’s (71)
leper repels analogies– (71)
, I got stogies– (71)
, I pot at opening nine potato pies … (260)
, I snap pansies– (71)
, I spy gypsies– (10)
, I tire: venal, priapic, in a panic, I pair plane verities … (260)
, I vomit (I hate car-race Tahiti movies)– (71)
I’d lose kibbutz tub bikes oldies (260)
, idle Tom, an irate tar in a motel, dies– (71)
Ira’s septic illicit pessaries (260)
Madame De Sade tarred nudists I’d under-rated as edema dames (260)
–mimes (71)
nip one drawer if a fire is aeons ago (to go to gas): no easier if a fire-warden opines 260
no bonk-carts, no mists, dim amidst Simon’s track, no bones– (71)
, “No, Cecil, slice cones, ” (71)
, no men atop [San Elena/Sununu] spot anemones– (71)
, note – we oppose wet ones – (71)
off one most sacred dude’s unused udder casts – omen of foe’s 260
, rude corpses’ procedures (260)
, save garage vases, (71)
, save rare vases, (5)
,” Sir Bob rises, ” – (71)
–so, here, hoses (71)
so new, we noses (1)
–so no noses (4)
–so noses (98)
–so, now, two noses (71)
, some Essenes see Moses (71)
sons’ noses 372
suggests egg uses– (71)
, Taco-VD advocates– (152)
us, sign it, turn one rut purple, help rupture non-rutting issues, (260)
, we decide: divide diced ewes– (71)
, we live on,” says Sissy, “as no evil ewes (71)
–we smell [air, a lamb, a cab, malarial] Lem’s ewes– (71)
, we snort at Lem’s smelt, at Ron’s ewes– (71)
!” we yell, “Amos knocks Ed’s desk, conks O’Malley, ewes ” (71)
, yes, (237)
–yet I, Sara, pass a parasite–yes, (71)


(“)Reg ordered no
              pallets, Stella,” p
              Panamanian aid, Diana, in Amana,” p
              panels, Lena,” p
              parody, Dora,” p
              patina, Anita,” p
              pear – did Rae?” p
              pedals – did Slade?” p
              pedigreed deer; Gide p
              peels, Lee,” p
              peewee,” p
              penile pipeline,”  p
              people to Hotel Poe,”p
              peso, Jose,” p
              peso, no naval lava, no nose,” p
              peso, no nose,” p
              peso, no note-veto, no nose,” p
              pews as we p
              pew-tubs, but we p
              Pez, a map or prop, a maze,” p
              Pez nor bronze,” p
              Pez, Odie; I doze,” p
              Pez or fig I froze!” p
              Pez or fire; no boner I froze!” p
              Pez or fish–Tab’s baths I froze!” p
              Pez or fizz; I froze!” p
              pheasant at NASA, eh” p
              pianist at Sinai?” p
              pie I p
              pig I p
              pill I p
              pin I p
              pine-posts open; I p
              pinot noir on Orion, Toni” p
              pistol plots; I p
              pit I p
              plaid dial,” p
              Polish silo?”
              poo-poo,” p
              prawn-war,” p
              pre-dawn wader,” p
              Prego Roger,” p
              Prell or a roller?” p
              Prell or an ore-leveler on a roller?” p
              Prell or wet-stew roller,” p
              prepaper ore-paper,” p
              prepaper,” p
              prepared ode raper,” p  (1)
              prison-gag–no, Sir!” p
              prod-odor,” p
              protagonist (it’s I!), no gator,” p
              waiter-cult, Lucretia?” w
              wall, Ella?” w (260)
              wapiti, Pa?” w
              waves, Eva?” w
              weed, Dee?” w (260)
              wee-wee?” w
              wet agate?” w
              wet ape-pate?” w
              wheat ad data, eh?” w (260)
              whore paper … oh!” w (260)
              wrens Asner?” w
              wren-bag, Abner?” w
                                                              ondered(,) Roger.

[“]Reg ordered rum
              and Edna
              as Asa
              as I, Lisa,
              as Ilya, Rod, Lana, Dan, Aldo Ray, Lisa
              as Silas
                    eyed a jade; yes,
                    eyed a mop, a rod or a pomade; yes,
                    puts a mast up;
                    tops Bob’s pot;
                                                            , Alissa
              , balsa, noses [or roses/ rots or frost or roses] on a slab
              but a [nice lad, Alec, in/nit in/niece in] a tub
              , but an [imam/irate tar] in a tub
              , but Stub
              ; Dennis sinned,
              ; I
              – I saw [Al’s slaw/Art’s straw] as I
              , ” I say, “as I
              “–I say no to Tony as I
              -limes as Emil
              –oh, who
              –pits as Tip
                  , Ron, a man on a manor,
              , Sir,” I sass, “as Iris
              , Sir,” I say, “as Iris
              , Sir–Iris
              , so mad Amos
              , so Ned, Enos
              , so Nero or Enos
              -tubs,” Lia wails, “but
                                                                          murdered Roger.[“] (71)In a canoe,
                         ladle Zelda,
                         lap up a pupa,
                        Lee, see
                        legalise silage,
                        Lem, I [m/t]ime
                        Lena, cane
                        Leo[,/had a] hoe
                        Les, run!” I say as I nurse
                        let a Lulu ululate,
                        let a timid [Edna and] Ed imitate
                        let a timid, raw Deb, Edward imitate
                        let Ada date 
                        let Ada nose [babes/dudes/lame males/mimes/Pa’s apes/pipes/popes/sore roses] on a date,
                        let Adam, Ron and Edna, Norma date,
                        let Adela, pale, date
                        let Al pass an ass a plate,
                        let Alf, Ed, and Edna deflate
                        let Amy (not Tony) mate,
                        let animals laminate,
                        let Art rate
                        let Art’s ace castrate
                        let Otto panic in a pot, tote
                        let Ovid, Nan, and I vote,
                        let saps paste,
                        let up Sid, ” I say, as I dispute                      
                        let’s elect Celeste,
                        Levi, a wig I waive –
                        Levi faxed Nina’s ‘Amy Mason’ index a ‘five’,
                        Levi lasts, alive;
                        Levi, lose no one’s olive,
                        Levi, lose Pa’s apes’ olive,
                        Levi, lose sordid Rose’s olive,
                        Levi loses O’Hara, hoses Olive,
                        Levi loses Olive,
                        Levi loses Oona, nooses Olive,
                        Levi loses, runs, nurses Olive,
                        Levi loses, sasses Olive,
                        Levi loses some mosses, olive –
                        Levi lost a car or a cat’s olive,
                        Levi lost a rat’s olive –
                        Levi sired a derisive
                        Levi, tan a native,
                        Levi tanned an Aden native –
                        Levi, Vera revive –
                        Levi’s iced sign,” I sing, “is decisive,
                        , Lew, owe
                        Lotta, feel fit – I flee fat – to
                        Lotta, flee pies – I rise, peel fat – to
                                                                                                     Leona,[–] can I?  (71)V

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   In his book Language On Vacation (1965) Dimitri Borgmann referred to the “perfect palindrome” (sentence) as one consisting only of words which are themselves palindromes.  Perhaps inspired by this concept, the Kuhns used such a “perfect palindrome” sentence as the title of their book of palindrome puzzles titled, Rats Live On No Evil Star (1981).  I believe Borgmann referred to ‘Able was I ere I saw Elba’ as one example.  Notice that the “perfect”   sentence must consist of ‘palindromic pairs’ (e.g. rats/star, saw/was, able/Elba, evil/live, etc.–there are fewer than 600 in the English language) and/or palindromic words (I, did, rotor, etc.–there are fewer than 300 of these.)  Borgmann’s definition elicits two questions from me: “What’s so perfect about limiting oneself so severely in trying to create a palindromic sentence?”*  And, “So, is a ‘perfectly perfect palindrome’ one consisting only of words which are palindromes of themselves?”
    I’ll start with the second question first.  Because it is rhetorical and because I’ve only found a few examples (therefore, e-mail me if you come up with more!):
        Dad, I did civic deed–a deed, civic, did I, Dad. (Nora Baron)
        Bob, solos did mum gig–mum did solos bob.  (Timi Imit)
        Madam solos mum, sees mum solos, Madam. (Timi Imit)
        I did level Seve’s level, did I? (Martin Clear)
        Bob sees redder Sara’s tit: Sara’s redder; sees Bob. (Martin Clear)
        ‘Radar Pop’ did pop radar. (Timi Imit)
        Eve sees Elle ere Elle sees Eve. (Martin Clear)
        Nun sees kook sees nun.  (Timi Imit)
        I did, did I?  (many)
        ‘E did, did ‘e?  (Michael Donner)
        Peep, Bob, peep.  (Nora Baron)  {Toot, tot, toot! (etc.)}
        Otto sees Otto. (Dona Smith) {Bob sees Bob. (etc.)}

    *This first question begs my answer perfectly: boring, formulaic, simple–therefore, sometimes fun!  I’d like to present five sets of examples of some fun different palindromists have had:
A    –Borgmann and his contemporaries’ creations
B    –Andrew Belsey’s unique contributions
C    –variations on …was I ere I saw…
D   –a sampling of some other longer, unique and/or witty ‘perfect’ palindromes.
E    –Timi Imit’s contributions

  Eros saw Aviva was sore. (16)
  Arden saw I was Nedra. (16)
  No evil Shahs live on. (16)
  Reviled did I live, evil I did deliver. (16)
  Stinker reknits. (16)
  Warder, redraw! (16)
  Zeus was deified, saw Suez. (16)
  Deliver no evil avid diva–live on reviled! (5)
  Dog deifier reified God. (5)
  Leon sees Noel. (5)
  Live on, Time–emit no evil! (5)
  Repel evil, live leper! (5-1)
  Snug Satraps eye Sparta’s guns. (5 or 10)
  Lager–si!-is regal. (11-1)
  Rail O liar! (11)
  Strap parts. (11)
  Now dine, Enid won. (10-1)
  Rats live on no evil star. (10?)
  Bed a Deb. (201)
  Emit lager on pils tub, but slip no Regal Time. (201)
  Llew did well. (201)
  Pots emit lager–a Regal time-stop! (201-1)
  Rats abut tuba star. (201)
  “Sirrah Dias!” said Harris. (201)
  Sloop spool loops pools. (201)
  Smart trams derotored smart trams. (201)
  Snips laid, a dial spins. (201-1)
  Time I did live, evil did I emit. (201)

  Sire, was I ere I saw Eris? (16)
  Snug & raw was I ere I saw War & Guns. (130+/or14)
  Snug, raw was I ere I saw war guns. (113)
  Sore was I ere I saw Eros. (16)
  Stressed was I ere I saw desserts. (16)
  Regal was I ere I saw lager. (00-1929)
  Naive was I ere I saw Evian. (97)
  Live was I ere I saw evil. (16)
  A-Rod was I ere I saw Dora! (00)
  ‘A’-slut was I ere I saw Tulsa. (98-1)
  Amiced was I ere I saw Decima. (16)
  Anal was I ere I saw Lana. (98)
  Able was I ere I saw Elba. (112)

  Stressed–no tips; spit on desserts! (228)
  Live on tenet: no evil. (140)
  Evil yam strap parts may live. (160)  
  Dennis, Hannah sinned. (98)
  Diaper saw DNA stops spots and was repaid. (98-1)
  Did I live on no evil I did? (1)
  Dr. No was, I saw, on Rd. (88)
  Drab Bud I dub bard. (254)
  Raw sexes war. (00)
  Rub–deliver a reviled bur. (1)
  Lap Strohs on no shorts, pal. (173)
  Ward peed a deep draw. (98-1) 
  Viva, let no evil live on, Tel Aviv! (90-1)
  Dad was sore ere Eros saw Dad. (4)
  Emil peed deep lime! (70)
  Emit no gas, Otto; sag on time. (00-1)
  Man maps yam snot and DNA–tons may spam ‘Nam! (116)
  Otto saw pup–pup WAS Otto! (00)
  Swen, on gnus, sung no news. (116)
  He repaid a mom a diaper, eh? (223)
  No devil deed lived on. (140-1)
  No, Dial saw I was laid on. (00)
  God, now Anna sees Otto sees Anna won, dog. (262)
  God deliver a reviled dog! (109)
  Stop–no, not a ton on pots! (4)
  No parts, Sis, strap on. (1)
  Pay on time, emit no yap.(119)
  Oh, oh, I “Ho Ho!” (30-1)

  Note was, “Sununus saw Eton.”
  But no, Sununu’s on tub!
  “Desserts I reviled–deliver!” I stressed.
  Di stops Bob, spots id.
  Wolf pal, lap flow.
  Dial saw I was laid.
  Dog sees God.
  Dog pal sees lap god!
  “Dog, sit–’tis God!”
  Top step: pup pets pot!
  Doom, deliver reviled mood.
  Sleek Bob did bob keels.
  Draw Eros, O sore Ward.                   
  Draw ‘No!’ on Ward.                          
  ‘Radar Pop’ did pop radar.
  Draw snot–tons!–Ward!
  Draw redder, Ward.
  Emil’s a slime!
  Tap Emil’s eye slime, Pat.
  Wed no Anna on dew!
  Eros saw Sis was sore.
  Part Sara’s trap.
  Now I saw sexes, was I won?
  L.A. peels sleep, Al.
  Lager, Em, did me–regal!
  Slop Strohs on no shorts, pols!
  Lana saw I was anal…
  No saw was on?

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(this commentary has two essays re palindrome-making, the first by Martin Clear and the second by Michael Abrams–enjoy!)”Interview With A Palindromer” Q. So how do I go about writing a palindrome?

A. The most common method is to start with the middle of the palindrome.This is sometimes called the “hinge”, or just the “middle”. It isusually two or three words that reverse, with perhaps one to threeletters left over. I struggled along with “semantic illicit names”, and”gardenia cocaine drag” for a long time before I managed to make areasonable palindrome out of either of them. But it can be as simple as”senile felines” as well.    Notice that palindromes can have an even or odd “pivot”: an odd pivot iswhere there is a single letter at the centre of the palindrome such asthe F in “senile felines”. Even pivots such as the LL in “semanticillicit names” are rarer, and generally slightly harder to use.    Another method is to start with a pair of “bookends”: the beginning andend of a palindrome. Some words lend themselves to this approach: if youfind a word pair with no letters hanging over at one end, it is acandidate for being a bookend-pair.    However the method I use is to start with a focus word that I canreverse into one or more other words. I then work simultaneously on thetwo separate phrases until I can find a way to join them together,usually with an odd pivot. After that I worry about the bookends.

Q. What words should I use in my palindrome?

A. “I”, “a”, “to”, “on”, “no”, “in”, “or” and “as”. As you can imagine,this would create a fairly dull palindrome, so you should start with atleast ONE interesting long word.

Q. What interesting long word should I choose?

A. Well, if I had one, I’d use it myself: it’s a cut-throat business,this. However, experience (and Dmitri Borgmann) has shown that wordsthat pretty much alternate vowels and consonants tend to work especiallywell. Other things to look for are words with the letter A figuredprominently, and S and T to a lesser extent. A tends to be most usefulbecause it is such a useable word in itself (I is OK, but limits you toa first-person palindrome pretty quickly, so it is not as good as A).The letters S and T are useful because they are easy to use next to alot of other consonants. Many two-consonant combinations in English arecommon but not reversible: WH is common as dirt but HW is going to be atough combination to find a word for (yes, you in the corner with yourhand up, I know there are words like “watchword” which DO feature a HWcombination; they’re just not very useful). Three consonants are evenworse: TCH is similarly common, but you can search long and hard for aHCT combination in a dictionary. If you find one, let me know!

Q. Hey, I’m nearly finished my first ever palindrome! Um … do you knowa word that ends in UQ?

A. Ahem … no. Certain letters should be avoided when writingpalindromes.

Q. Which letters?

A. Q.

Q. Q?

A. Yes, Q. Its inseparability from the ugly duckling vowel U makes it anightmare. Many people have tried to come up with a decent Q palindrome,but it invariably seems to end up being about Iraq – and using the Q inthe odd pivot position. Or it is about the Yemeni drug qat. Or similarlyobscure U-less Q-words. Genuine all-dictionary palindromes using Qshould only be attempted by professionals and then only with adequatesafety equipment.
Q. OK, no Qs. Anything else to avoid?

A. Yes, J is a dog of a letter too: it doesn’t combine well with otherletters. The other letter that is surprisingly difficult is one thatappears commonly in English (8th-most common): H. It usually appearsonly at the start of words, or in a hard-to-reverse pair such as CH, SH,WH or TH. Z is poor as might be expected. Surprisingly, of thehigh-Scrabble-value letters, X is not too bad. K’s use is fairlylimited, and C is less useful than other letters of similarEnglish-usage levels like M and P.

Q. So what should my general palindrome-writing strategy be?

A. As much as possible, keep options open. When options presentthemselves, take the one that gives you the most subsequent options,rather than force your palindrome down a narrow road from which theremay be no turning back.

Q. What other Do’s and Don’ts are there in good palindrome-writing?

A. The Don’ts:

1. Avoid proper nouns. A palindrome consisting entirely of words fromthe dictionary is better than one that has to resort to theencyclopaedia, or worse, the atlas, or, God forbid, the phone book. Ifnames must be used, the longer the better. A sentence with “Ed” or “Al”in it can be lived with if the rest is creative; a sentence with “Ed”AND “Al” starts to look contrived.

2. Avoid obviously contrived names: Mr. Astor is more acceptable thanMr. Awpeek, no matter how useful Mr. Awpeek is. But even Mr. Awpeek isbetter than “Det” or “Gella” or whatever other unrelated string ofletters you need to pass off as a first name to make the palindrome comeout right. And no, it isn’t justified even if your wife’s sister’sfriend’s babysitter is unfortunately saddled with the name “Gella” …your readers don’t know your wife’s sister’s friend’s babysitter.Probably.

3. Avoid abbreviations. If you do have abbreviations, make them ascommon as possible. You can get away with “e.g.”, “’em”, “etc.” or”i.e.” but I once overstepped the boundaries with Hire Purchase beingabbreviated to “H.P.” (I might have got away with it if it had been a”H.P. car” but I needed a “H.P. camel” for an Elle MacPherson reference- it’s a long story). Incidentally “‘n'” (for “and”) looks verycontrived unless it is with an obvious “pair”: “Rock ‘n’ roll” and “Sid’n’ Nancy” are OK; “Go ‘n’ clean up” is less so.

4. Avoid exclamations. Again, if you must put them in, stick to thosemost commonly used: “oh”, “eh”, “ha”. Using random collections ofletters as an exclamation (“Oyu!”) looks VERY contrived. Unavoidableexclamations should at least be in a reasonable place in the sentence:if the exclamation has a comma both before and after it, it is verystilted. In general English usage, exclamations appear at either thebeginning or end of a sentence or phrase.

5. Avoid lists. Although palindroming becomes much easier when you aresimply writing a list rather than having to obey the complex rules ofsentence structure that comprehensible English requires, it issurprising how dull “long list” palindromes are. They are usuallyfollowed by a flushed statement from the author like: “A 1,388 letterpalindrome! Brilliant!” despite the fact that it’s pretty obvious thatthey can be infinitely extended virtually at will. In my experience, fewpeople bother reading all of a long list palindrome. “A man, a plan, acanal: Panama” is clever; “A man, a plan, a long list of utterlyunrelated items ending in a canal: Panama” is not.

6. Avoid excessive punctuation. If your palindrome needs an ellipsis,quote marks, two sets of brackets, four commas and a semi-colon to becomprehensible, then it ISN’T comprehensible.

7. Avoid using standard word-pairs. There is pretty much nothing leftthat can be said about god/dog, live/evil, star/rats etc. Andunfortunately you are not the first to discover that “stressed” is”desserts” spelt backwards.

8. Avoid dead-end words: ones which tend to only have one reversibleoption. Sure as eggs, you will be proceeding down a well-trodden path.Yes, “sign” is about the only legitimate way to get all those”ing”-ending words in … but you are not exactly alone in the field todiscover that. And to experienced palindrome readers, the appearance of”Edna” or even worse “DNA” signifies the author has discovered the twolame answers to what I call the Look Ma No Ands Problem. However, theampersand (“&”) is NOT a valid solution to this problem. See if you canuse “or”, or put a comma between the two words and add “or” andsomething else after the second word, thus making the format “a, b orc”. There are other letter combinations that force one down a certainpath: for instance, “ted” is a very useful letter combination (usuallyat the end of a word) but “det” nine times out of ten ends up as”cadet”. This results in lots of cadets appearing in palindromes. And the Do’s:

1. The Holy Grail of palindroming, in my opinion, is to create asentence where it is not at all apparent to the reader that the sentenceis a palindrome.

2. Write a sentence, not a collection of words. A sentence generallycontains a subject (the person or object performing an action), a verb(the action) and a part of speech I refer to by the technical linguisticterm “The Other Bit”. Sometimes the subject disappears if the subject is”you”: in English, what is called the Imperative Voice (i.e. orderingpeople about) is done with an understood “you”. For instance, wegenerally say “Get ready! Get set! Go!” instead of  “You get ready! Youget set! You go!”.

3. Use articles. Omitting “a” or “the” from in front of all your nounscertainly makes the job of writing a palindrome easier, but it makes thepalindrome read like a cryptic crossword clue. If you can’t use “a” or”an” (“the” should be reserved for advanced users), try using a pluralform of the noun, or use “a” and then an adjective.

4. Make your palindrome unique throughout. Pre-packaged generic bookendslike “I did … did I?”, “Won’t … now?” and “Eva, can I … in acave?” detract from the overall novelty of a palindrome, although theydo of course make it easier to write.

5. Be prepared for your own unwitting plagiarism. A lot of the goodideas in palindroming have already been thought of. The followingpalindromes have something in common:Men, I’m Eminem!So I dare to tote radios.Sell a rebus uber alles.A lug I lack, Caligula…. they are ALL palindromes that I creatively wrote all by myself fromscratch. Only to discover that someone else had written the entirepalindrome word-for-word before me. Similarly, other previously existingpalindromes may be only trivially different from your latestmeisterwerk: I was rather proud of my composition “Set up side disputes”until I discovered that someone had already written “He set up sidedisputes, eh?”.

6. Use a focus word: one word which is not a particularly common word,which will create an interesting palindrome. This focus word can come inhandy when testing to see if you have unwittingly duplicated someoneelse’s work.

7. Interlock the word-break “seams” of your palindrome. A palindromewhere the words break at the same point reading in one direction as theydo in the other are less interesting (and more obvious) than palindromeswhere each word when reversed appears as part of two other words. Notethat like many of these tips, this makes the palindrome HARDER to write,but the effect is better. “Rats live on no evil star” is a pretty lamepalindrome, no matter how balanced a sentence it appears.

8. Make your palindrome have a point: witty, deep and meaningful, orjust plain silly. Having your audience read a purpose to yourpalindromic sentence is a valuable goal.

9. Have a unified theme for the palindrome. If it’s about cats at thefront, make it about cats in the middle, and cats at the end too. Ifit’s about the Nietzschean super-ego’s struggle against the id at thebeginning make it about the Nietzschean super-ego’s struggle against theid in the middle and about the Nietzschean super-ego’s struggle againstthe id in the end (good luck!).

    Although you can make endless quantities of basically comprehensiblepalindromes where the events described are bland (along the lines of”Patsy or Des used Roy’s tap”), they are never going to figure inanyone’s list of The Great Palindromes. The best palindromes are NOTgeneric; for instance “A man, a plan, a canal: Panama” is great becausePanama happens to be the place where a canal is. It would lose impact ifit said “A man, a plan, a canal: Sacsayhuaman”.    And yes the particularly astute among you will have noticed that it alsoceases to be a palindrome with Sacsayhuaman – I just slipped it in so Icould use the Peruvian place name that is hilariously pronounced “sexywoman”. That’s got nothing to do with palindromes, I just did it becauseI have a dirty mind – and if you think THAT’S a disadvantage whenwriting palindromes, boy, you haven’t read many palindromes!
Q. So I should fill my palindromes with filth?

A. Yes. Everyone else does.

Q. So do other palindrome writers sometimes disagree with some of thesetips of yours?

A. Is the Pope Catholic?!?!

Q. Yes, I believe so. Why, does he write palindromes?

A. Ah … no. I meant … oh forget it. Let’s just say that there is ahealthy level of disagreement about all my above tips, and no twopalindrome writers agree completely about what constitutes a goodpalindrome.

Q. That’s not very useful

A. Tough.

Q. OK, my newly-written palindrome obeys all these tips. What now?

A. It does??? Wow, none of mine ever have! Take a bow!

Q. Great! Can I make money out of my new-found palindrome-writing skill?

A. (Hollow laugh).
 Martin Clear, 26-Oct-2002 

The Ins and Outs of Back and Forth
By Michael Abrams

Like all great artists, the successful palindromist is besieged by the same few questions from friends, fans, critics and hangers-on. Where do you get your ideas? How do you make a palindrome? What are your influences? How did you get interested palindromes? Is that supposed to mean something? Why are you bothering me?

Laymen often assume that the palindromist chooses a topic and then suddenly an entire symmetrical phrase emerges from his subconscious, as spontaneous and complete as a Charlie Parker solo. Sadly, like so many seeming works of genius, the palindrome is the result of determination, sweat, hard work, lots of time, and an idiotic stubbornness. The grunt work of palindroming, the endless flopping of syllables, the grueling hours spent listing words ending in h, the drudgery of reading dictionaries backward, the real blood-and-guts, in-the-dirt-with-a-shovel-and-a-screen work is a lot more like archeology than art.

The fact is, palindromes are out there in the language, waiting to be dug up. Any wordsmith that starts playing around with the word snore during a sleepless night next to some roaring relative will eventually begin to wonder what words end with erons. It won’t be long before herons comes to mind and voila! there’s a palindrome: Snore herons.

It’s true that there are other things that can be done with heronsSnore doesn’t have to come first, but that means finding a word beginning with an h, whose remaining letters must spell something backward. Ham is such a word. And so we find ourselves with the exquisite “Ma, herons snore ham.” Though more complex, this too is one of a finite number of herons palindromes. The number of h words that contain another word resting in their posteriors is few. The number of four-word palindromes with “herons snore” as their center could easily be listed on this page. If the palindromist is an artist at all, he’s like Michelangelo chiseling at a block of stone to find the human body he already knows is inside.

The above scenario-a sleepless night next to bleating kin-is not a fiction. The event occured early in my palindroming career. I was so delighted with the “Snore herons” that I told everyone about it in the morning. But shortly thereafter I was reading Richard Lederer’s Word Circus (in the conventional direction) when I happened upon “Snore herons” in a list of palindromic animals. The pearl of wisdom gleaned from this experience was well worth my disapointment. Palindromes belong to the world, not the individual, and they are continually rediscovered. Imagine my joy when I pried the complete sentence-a rarity among palindromes-“Nate bit a Tibetan” out of the language. Since then I’ve found it in two other palindrome books.
Sadly, even the best palindromes fail to excite some people. You can imagine that if “Nate bit a Tibetan” sometimes gets a blank stare, “Ma, herons snore ham” can inspire undisguised disgust. The innocent passerby, caught off-guard by an insistent, excited palindromist, can’t be expected to understand or appreciate the beauty of such a phrase. The truth is, finding a palindrome is in most cases far more fun than being assaulted with one. If you’ve spent hours toying with the word “snore” you’re bound to be more interested in what it could mean to “snore ham” than those who have spent their time following other pursuits. And so, instead of just perusing the palindromes I and others have excavated from the earth that is the English language, try to build your own. Like any true gourmand, you’ll better apreciate the meal when you can recognize the ingredients.

The Elements of a Palindrome

Palindromes are usually built around the kernel of a promising word. Once this initial, inspirational word has been reversed, other words can be added either between the word and its reversal or to either end of the pair. Building on the outside is often the easiest way to proceed. Say we need a palindrome in which a dog is to be ordered around. We might start with “dog, go d. . .” Then we’ll need to find a useful word that starts with d. If we use deeper, we’re left with “. . . re pee dog, go deeper,” which calls out for a good word ending with re. If we then choose fire the outcome is “Fire pee dog, go deeper if.” This begs for more words but there are no longer any hanging letters. Now any pair of words that are complete reversals of one another can bracket the palindrome to finish it off. “Live fire! Pee dog, go deeper if evil” ends the affair, though perhaps not as elegantly as one would have hoped.

Other palindromes can grow from the inside. If we start with “Go dog” we can add to the center by finding an appropriate word that starts with a d. “Go do dog” could put an end to the process with the o in do acting as the center. If we want to further expand it we could add Dana and look for a word that ends with ana (though “Go, Dana Dog” is a complete palindrome). Man a gives us “Go, Dana, man a dog.” With a tolerable m word we could expand the palindrome indefinitely.

Each word in a palindrome has a role: Beginning or ending the palindrome; linking words together; acting as or contributing to the center of the palindrome.

First there are palindromic words-words that are the same forward and backward: Noon, Kayak, Bob.

Then there are the semordnilaps-words that are a different word (or couple of words) backward: dog/god, rats/star, evian/naive.

Words with internal symmetry contain a symmetrical section at the beginning or end. This section is most likely to end up as the center of a palindrome: sordid (“Flee sordid rose, elf?”), peeped (Kay, a red nude, peeped under a yak), llama (the ll in “Ma, I am a llama, I am.” Unfortunately, the ama isn’t of much use unless you can think of another word that starts with two Ls.).

When the first or last letter of a word is the center of a palindrome this letter is called the pivotal letter.

Embedded symmetries, symmetrical sections surrounded by different letters on either side, are useless. Staccato might be made into a palindrome (only if A.C. can stand for air conditioning or TAC for Tactical Air Command) but the acca will never be the center.

Linking words are simply redivided on their way back. Their letters are parts of other words on the other half of the palindrome: plan in Lee Mercer’s classic “A man, a plan, a canal: Panama”; Cerusite in “You bet I sure can omit Tim on a cerusite buoy.”

Astragal words contain another word (or two) backward at one end but need to be attached to another word with their remaining letters. These words are particularly useful when trying to finish a palindrome built from the inside out. If you catch a palindromist mumbling “I need a word that ends with rt where the rest of the letters spell something backward” chances are he’s looking for an astragal word: Panama contains “a man” at the end, but the ap needs to be attached to something new (“a plan” in the old chestnut, but ape could work as well: “A man ape: Panama”); Melon in “No lemons, no melon.”

Many words have different functions in different situations, sometimes more than one function in a single situation. Madam, for instanace, is a palindrome all by itself. But in “Madam, in Eden I’m Adam,” it opperates as an Astragal word.

Palindromes are either even or odd-a small but important distinction. In even palindromes every letter is used twice. The middle occurs between letters, often between words. “Reign at Tangier” (by Joaquin and Maura Kuhn) is a good example. Such a palindrome is essentially two long semordnilaps. Since they can be halved without splitting a word it’s easy to extend them by adding to their middles. “Reign at Tangier” becomes “Reign at nine men in Tangier.” Now it’s an odd palindrome-with the m as the pivotal letter-and not as easily expandable. Palindromes with the center in the middle of a word, can also be built the inside but it’s a bit harder. There’s not much to add to the interior of “I’m a boob, am I?” (Well, I guess there’s always “I’m a bonk knob, am I?”)

perfect palindrome is a palindrome made up entirely of semordnilaps: “Able was I ere I saw Elba.”

The following puzzles are easier than they might first seem. In many ways they are like cartoon rebuses: Every word is somehow clued in the image. Try to isolate elements from the text (actions, things, sometimes words) to find words that will fit into the dashes. Every letter you figure out can be used on the opposite side as well (so be sure to first find the center of the palindrome). Then you can work back and forth between the two sides. A single right word will give the whole palindrome away.

Find the title of this poem:

___ ____ ______

We’re cheated with just one nose on the face
We want more noses all over the place!
The one we’ve got, yeah sure, it smells a lot
But one on the forehead could smell out a thought
one on a knee for sniffing at dogs
one on a shin for wading through bogs
One on the rear for smelling our seat
One on a foot for smelling, well, feet
One in the hair for smelling shampoo
One in the cupboard for sniffing some glue
One in a pit for smelling B.O.
And one on the chest: That’s just for show

I’d do more than smell dozens of roses
If I’d been equipped with nine extra noses

Bob was a couch potato. Every day he came home from the factory, plopped himself down on the sofa, turned on the TV and popped open a brew. There was nothing he enjoyed more than drinking his favorite Canadian beer while watching a football game. In fact, that’s about all he did. Work, sleep, football and beer. Drinking was only thing that ever distracted him from the tube. When he did happen to miss an interception or 40-yard-dash due to such a sip, there was always the instant replay to fill him in.

Every year Bob’s wife and son would have a terrible time trying to think of what to buy him for his birthday. They tried getting him expensive, micro-brewed beer, but that didn’t interest him. They’d bought him a subscription to Sports Illustrated but he didn’t want to take any time away from watching football to read it.

One year they had a brilliant idea. Why not buy him tickets to go see a real football game-live, at the stadium? So Bob’s wife and son picked him up after work on his birthday and drove him to a game. Bob was happy when he first saw the stadium  and more than eager to settle into his seat. As the game wore on, however, Bob became more and more frustrated. The only beer they served at the stadium was Budweiser and every time he looked around, hoping to see a vendor selling his beer he missed a crowd-roaring play. By the end of the first quarter Bob was ready to leave. He stood up in a huff, ready to go.
“What’s wrong, Bob?” asked his wife.

“__ ___-__, __ ______,” complained Bob.

Michael M.  Abrams

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