"Madam, I'm Adam - Too hot to hoot
No lemons, no melon - Too bad I hid a boot
Lisa Bonet ate no basil - Warsaw was raw
Was it a car or a cat I saw?"
Palindrome is a word sequence that can be read backwards but remains the same. Just as writers like to play with anagrams
, acronyms and initialisms
, so indeed do they seize opportunities to use palindromes. However, since it's hard to come up with a palindrome - let alone a meaningful one - it's unlikely to be a plot point, and is usually a result of the Rule of Fun
Not to be confused with Sdrawkcab Name
, though the two can overlap a little.
- A 2011 issue of the comic book Zatanna had the sorceress (who pronounces the words in her spells backwards) going up against a villain with time-reversal powers, that allowed him to negate her spells by having them sound like normal words. She got around his powers by casting spells in palindromes (such as "Nurses Run" causing him to be stampeded by an army of running nurses).
- In Arkham Asylum: Living Hell, the Joker proposed killing everyone in Gotham City whose name was a palindrome, while flipping through a phone book.
- If it sounds implausible to you that he would actually find anyone fitting that parameter within Gotham City, he then immediately spots Nora Baron (Which wouldn't be obviously a palindrome to anyone reading the phone book, as it would be listed as Baron, Nora)...
- In Bamse, Lille Skutt's wife is called "Nina Kanin" (meaning "Nina Rabbit").
- A Superman comic had Mr. Mxyzptlk changing his name to Mxypyxm so he couldn't be tricked into saying his name backwards. Though, that would mean saying his name would always be saying it backwards.
- Leaving these at crime scenes was the schtick of Nightwing villain Torque. He was called that because Bludhaven's crime boss Blockbuster twisted his head around.
Live Action TV
- Demitri Martin's book This Is A Book contains the 224-word-long palindrome poem mentioned below.
- Angels & Demons contains a variant in the form of ambigrams, which read the same when turned upside down.
- In Callahan's Legacy by Spider Robinson, every chapter title is a palindrome. Notably, the chapter in which Nikola Tesla visits the bar glories in the title, "I, Madam, I Made Radio. So I Dared. Am I Mad? Am I?"
- And the subversion in the chapter named "Rettebs, I Flahd Noces, Eh? Tu, But the Second Half is Better..."
- Otto Tibbit (and his sister Hannah) in Nursery Crime.
- The Stormlight Archive uses palindromes and near-palindromes as a Theme Naming scheme, this is justified in-universe because the world's major religion considers symmetry to be holy. Notably all the historical names of the various countries are palindromes, although by modern times they've drifted. Similarly, every letter in written Alethi is symmetrical about its horizontal centerline and all the major cities are built around symmetrical patterns. Also, the hardback edition of the first book has 1001 pages (not counting the extras at the back).
- Though you have to know that "th" and "sh" are single letters in Rosharan to recognize some of the palindromes. In the second book it's explained that "h" can stand in for any other consonant.
- Three books are collections of palindromes:
- Go Hang a Salami, I'm a Lasagna Hog: is a collection of cartoons based on palindromes
- Lid Off a Daffodil: is a collection of palindromes.
- So Many Dynamos! has cartoons illustrating palindromes.
- In Holes, the main character, Stanley Yelnats IV, is so named because his great-great-grandmother noticed that Yelnats was Stanley spelled backwards, and so decided to name her boy Stanley. Needless to say, it stuck.
- 2002: A Palindrome Story is a wholly palindromic short story.
- Adah in The Poisonwood Bible makes palindromes whenever she narrates the plot, due to hemiplegia supposedly messing with her mind and making her thoughts go backwards.
- Ulysses, at one point, has two characters conversing in palindromes. But of course it has.
- A German example (it's much harder to do it in German!): Oh Cello voll Echo, palindrome poems by Herbert Pfeiffer.
- In Richard Lederer's Anguished English, there's an interview with Doctor Otto, who speaks only in palindromes. (Example: "Evil is a name of a foeman, as I live.") (Lederer makes it easier on himself by only having the answers be palindromes, not the questions. E.g. "Which do you like better, math or science?" "I prefer pi.")
- On Monk, after Monk's psychiatrist passes away, he has difficulty finding a new one. Then comes Dr. Neven Bell. His first name is the same forwards as it is backwards, thus, Monk approves.
- Though he points out that it's not a true palindrome as his name backwards would be neveN.
- The killer in the Tie-In Novel Mr. Monk Is Cleaned Out is a Bernard Madoff Expy named Bob Sebes, who defrauded investors with a Ponzi scheme in his Reinier Investment Fund. His wife's name is Anna.
- "Able was I, ere I saw Elba" was the palindrome that appeared in I Dream of Jeannie.
- Monty Python's Flying Circus - in the classic 'Dead Parrot' sketch, the shifty pet shop owner is called out by the irate customer for claiming they were in Ipswich and not Bolton. He tries to palm it off as a pun, and when he's called out on that, he claims it was a palindrome. The customer testily replies "The palindrome of Bolton would be 'Notlob'!"
- The PBS science show Nova featured a documentary on the building of the Panama canal. Its title was taken from one of the most famous palindromes in history: "A Man, a Plan, a Canal...Panama!"
- Lampshaded in The Middle Man when a villain leaves hints in the form of a palindrome.
- They Might Be Giants have a song called "I Palindrome I," which features:
- Letter palindromes
"Egad, a base tone denotes a bad age"
- Word palindromes
"'Son, I am able,' she said, 'though you scare me.' 'Watch,' said I. 'Beloved,' I said, 'watch me scare you, though.' Said she: 'Able am I, son."
- "Conceptual" palindromes: references to springs and ouroboros/amphisbaena.
- Musical palindromes: The bridge of the song is a crab canon.
- Even the length of the song is a palindrome: 2:02.
- "Weird Al" Yankovic's "Bob", a homage to Bob Dylan's "Subterranean Homesick Blues", is written entirely in palindromes.
- The title of Nada Surf's Cover Album, If I Had A Hi-Fi (by coincidence the same palindrome appears in the above Weird Al song)
- Perhaps not intentional but ABBA (itself a palindrome name, taken from the initials of the first names of their line-up) had a hit song called "S.O.S."
- Grateful Dead's 1969 album Aoxomoxoa.
- Finnish humoristic radio series Alivaltiosihteeri always includes the weekly palindrome. Given that Finnish is crazy adaptable to such, the palindromes tend to be 5 words minimum, and can be outrageously long. For example...
- Emme loassa jorise, sir. Ojassa olemme. (28.2.2001) ("Not in muck we blather, sir. In a ditch we are.")
- Allia vaanii visio: jano-juomisia kai Simo ujona joisi, viinaa vailla. (2.12.98) ("Alli is haunted by a vision: drinks for thirst would Simo shyly drink, lacking vodka.")
- Alli O., nai, pitsa laadi! Anna, Assi, nuoret! Naisia tässä iässä taisi Antero unissaan naida alasti pianolla. (13.9.95) ("Alli O, marry, make a pizza! Anna, Assi, youth! Women at this age did Antero perhaps in his sleep lay, naked on top of a piano.")
- Demetri Martin wrote a 224 word palindrome for his "If I" comedy segment.
Dammit I’m mad.
Evil is a deed as I live.
God, am I reviled? I rise, my bed on a sun, I melt.
To be not one man emanating is sad. I piss.
Alas, it is so late. Who stops to help?
Man, it is hot. I’m in it. I tell.
I am not a devil. I level “Mad Dog”.
Ah, say burning is, as a deified gulp,
In my halo of a mired rum tin.
I erase many men. Oh, to be man, a sin.
Is evil in a clam? In a trap?
No. It is open. On it I was stuck.
Rats peed on hope. Elsewhere dips a web.
Be still if I fill its ebb.
Ew, a spider… eh?
We sleep. Oh no!
Deep, stark cuts saw it in one position.
Part animal, can I live? Sin is a name.
Both, one… my names are in it. Murder? I’m a fool.
A hymn I plug, deified as a sign in ruby ash,
A Goddam level I lived at.
On mail let it in. I’m it.
Oh, sit in ample hot spots. Oh wet!
A loss it is alas (sip). I’d assign it a name.
Name not one bottle minus an ode by me:
“Sir, I deliver. I’m a dog”
Evil is a deed as I live.
Dammit I’m mad.
- Hannah Gadsby plays with this trope in one of her earlier live performances.
"My name's Hannah. That's a palindrome. [...] My entire family have palindromic names. We've got Mum, Dad, Nan, Pop
- The third case of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Trials and Tribulations has Blue Screens Inc., a computer firm where all of the employees have palindromes for names.
- The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages features Symmetry City, whose survival depends on the total equality between the two sides. The name of the artifact that mantains the balance? Tuni nut!
- Eevee, Ho-oh, Girafarig, and Alomomola from Pokémon; Girafarig is a palindrome in the original Japanese too (Kirinriki)).
- The passwords for the Rocket Headquarters on Five Island in the remakes of Red and Blue are "Goldeen need log" and "Yes, nah, Chansey".
- Kingdom of Loathing features an area called the Palindome, in which each adventure revolves around palindromes in some way. You encounter a Taco Cat, the brothers Bob Racecar and Racecar Bob, and get involved in fruit-based combat ("No, sir, away! A papaya war is on!"). A quest also requires you to face a mini-boss here named Dr. Awkward in order to get your hands on the Staff of Fats.
- The webcomic Palindramas probably has more examples than every other work put together.
- In The Simpsons, the members of Mensa have new palindrome discoveries on their meeting agenda. Comic Book Guy's mention of "Rise to vote, sir" is misinterpreted as an actual request for a democratic procedure until Lisa, who understood, pointed it out.
- One of the very first episodes of The Simpsons had Bart cheat on an exam and find himself transferred to an advanced class. One of the advanced class students liked to make up palindromes on the fly. He greeted Bart with "O Memsahib Bart, rabbi has memo."
- In "The Otto Show" after Otto's fired and the kids find out Skinner's the new bus driver, he says "Otto, that's one palindrome you won't be hearing for a while."
- The Phineas and Ferb episode "My Fair Goalie" featured a character called Professor Ross Eforp. Unfortunately, "anti-palindrome" hysteria forces him to spend his life in hiding.
- A Robot Chicken skit has Batman face Palindrome, a villain who speaks entirely in these. Batman actually claps when the villain speaks a very long paragraph as a palindrome.
- On This Very Wiki: Trope Report.
- It's also noted on the Technology Marches On page that the lack of home stereo systems these days makes the ever popular palindrome "If I had a hi-fi" a somewhat dated palindrome.
- A 1934 New York Sun review of a Max Reger string quartet: "Reger might be epitomized as a composer whose name is the same either forward or backward, and whose music, curiously, often displays the same characteristic."
- Revilo P. Oliver, the fascist professor. One of his articles was denounced as a transparent fraud because the palindrome looked suspicious, but according to Oliver, it was a family custom that went back six generations.
- The word for a fear or distaste for palindromes was deliberately constructed to be "aibohphobia" (It starts with the reverse of "phobia")