Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Etymology Today from M-W: palindrome \PAL-un-drohm\
: a word, verse, or sentence (as "Able was I ere I saw Elba"), or a number (as 1881) that reads the same backward or forward

Palindromic wordplay is nothing new. Palindromes have been around since at least the days of ancient Greece, and our name for them comes from two Greek words, "palin," meaning "back" or "again," and "dramein," meaning "to run." Nowadays, we can all appreciate a clever palindrome (such as "Drab as a fool, aloof as a bard" or "A man, a plan, a canal: Panama"), or even a simple one like "race car," but in the past palindromes were more than just smart wordplay. Until well into the 19th century some folks thought palindromes were actually magical, and they carved them on walls or amulets to protect people or property from harm.

Previous E.T.

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