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Fun with Palindromes

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"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. Has nothing to do with Sarah Palin. note 


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  • Some German palindromic brands:
    • "Maoam": sweets (Haribo Group), name is artificial
    • "Xox": cookies, name symbolizes windmills
    • "Omo": detergent (Unilever)
  • The drug "Xanax" (=Alprazolam, a benzodiazepin anxiolytic).

    Anime and Manga 
  • In BNA: Brand New Animal Nazuna takes pride in the fact that her name is a palindrome in syllabic Japanese (なずな), she's also a duplicitous Kitsune passing as a god while herself being manipulated by her cult's leader and his corporate backer.

    Comic Books 

    Fan Works 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The protagonist of Desk Set is given a test which includes identifying "Able was I ere I saw Elba" as a palindrome. This leads to some banter about how Napoleon likely never said that, and Adam probably never said "Madam, I'm Adam" either.
  • The title of Tenet, as well as several key names in the plot, as taken from the Latin Sator Square made up of palindromes.
  • Arrival: Louise Banks named her daughter Hannah, explaining to her that her name is a palindrome. This is a clue regarding the Heptapods' language influencing her, allowing her to see past, present and future at the same time.

  • 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..."
  • Cosmicomics: Many of the names of the stories' characters are palindromes, usually of random letters — besides Qfwfq himself, two of his rivals from distinct stories are called Kgwgk and Pfwfp, while one of the characters in "All in One Point" is called De XuaeauX.
  • Nursery Crime: Otto Tibbit and his sister Hannah.
  • The Stormlight Archive:
    • The series 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 the Vorin women's script to recognize some of the palindromes. In the second book it's explained that "h" can stand in for any other consonant.
    • Most modern Alethi names are contractions of a palindrome plus a suffix. Adolin, for example, is a contraction of "Adoda" ("light") and "lin" ("born unto"). Some Alethi use actual palindromes as names, which is a minor blasphemy as it implies more holiness than humans are supposed to have.
    • This series also has the ketek poetical form. A ketek must read the same forwards and backwards (going by word rather than letter and allowing for changes in verb form) and must be divisible into five segments which each express a complete thought. (i.e. "Radiant / of birthplace / the announcer comes / to come announce / the birthplace of Radiants.") Many keteks show up over the course of the Archive, some with plot relevance.
  • American cartoonist Jon Agee wrote and illustrated four books full of palindromic cartoons: Go Hang a Salami! I'm a Lasagna Hog!, Palindromania!, So Many Dynamos! and Sit on a Potato Pan, Otis!.
  • Another picture book, Lid Off a Daffodil (not by Agee), is a collection of 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.")
  • The title of Neal Stephenson's work: Seveneves. It was originally published on May 19, 2015 (5/19/15 in the American dating convention).
  • German illustrated "Stern" had some solve-yourself crime-puzzles for the reader. In one a company CEO suspects his accountant named Siegeis of foul play, and calls him up. Just in case he will be murdered, he drops a few completely made up palindrome hints ("Timaxamit", "Nasotosan") to his secretary (and to the readers, who don't know the visitor). (Any idiot would have called the cops at once, but OK, then there were no solve-yourself crime-puzzle.)
  • Used in the solution to one Encyclopedia Brown story. One student wanted to let the teacher know who had broken a globe but without being seen as a snitch. He therefore completed a captioning assignment using only palindromes. The guilty parties were the two students whose names were palindromes.
  • Lawrence Levine's 1980 novel Dr. Awkward & Olson in Oslo is a complete palindrome.
  • Margaret Atwood's "Madd Addam" (last book of the like-named trilogy).
  • Titan's Forest: Understorians use names that read the same when said forwards or backwards — Canopians adopted into Understorey society "mirror" their old names to achieve this effect — to represent the ability to move both up and down the great trees. Exceptions to this, such as Frog and her eventual reincarnation, deliberately adopt asymmetric names to symbolize their desire to only move up towards Canopy.
  • Discussed in-universe in The Private Parts Of Women. Trixie says that the longest palindrome word she can think of is "redivider", but is not certain if this is a bona fide dictionary word.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Extraordinary Attorney Woo: Woo Young-woo, who is autistic, always recites a list of palindromes she knows when introducing herself because her own name is one in Hangul (우영우). Whenever Young-woo gives her introduction, the English subtitles give examples of words that are palindromes in English (Kayak, deed, rotator, noon, racecar.) but the actual examples she gives in Korean are 기러기 (Geese) 토마토 (Tomato) 스위스 (Swiss) 인도인 (Delivery) and 별똥별 (Shooting star).
  • 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 with a villain called The Palindrome (whose name turns out to be Ivan Avi), who leaves hints in the form of palindromes.
    The Middleman: Typical supervillain horse feathers. Can't wait to hear this guy's monologue. "I am the Palindrome, feel my power! Power my feel, PALINDROME THE AM I!" Peter-pipin' weirdos.
  • Jeopardy!: 1994 4-time champion and 1995 Tournament Of Champions winner Ryan "Fritz" Holznagel has been well-known for making unusual palindromic wagers in Final Jeopardy (e.g. $7,117), having done so in 3 of his 5 regular games and all his TOC games. When he uncovered a Daily Double in the final game of the TOC, he stopped to ask Alex Trebek if a $1,111 wager was possible.
  • Colombian TV show "La Tele" was revamped with the palindromic name "La Tele Letal", which in Spanish means "The Lethal Television".
  • Once on NCIS when the team has dealings with Mossad, Tony DiNozzo comments on a meeting between NCIS Agent Tim McGee and Mossad Officer Amit Hadar.
    "Tim, Amit. Palindromic pals."
  • Probe's "Untouched by Human Hands": Austin uses a discovery of palindromic math as an excuse to interrupt Mickey's date. At the end of the episode, Mickey asks him what a palindromic prime is, which he defines as a number that is only divisible by itself and eleven.
  • Square One TV had a song about numbers that are palindromes, including the fact that if a number is not a palindrome, you can add it to itself reversed and eventually get a number that is a palindrome.
  • Kamen Rider Revice had Kamen Riders Evil and Live. Their final form is a fusion of the two named EvilytyLive.
  • One of the supporting characters in Quark is the aptly named Otto Palindrome.

  • They Might Be Giants have a song called "I Palindrome I," which features:
    • Letter palindromes
      "Egad, a base tone denotes a bad age"
      "Man o nam"
    • 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.'"
      "Dad palindrome dad, I palindrome I"
    • "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: 2:22.
  • "Weird Al" Yankovic's "Bob", a homage to Bob Dylan's "Subterranean Homesick Blues", is written entirely in palindromes. Al wrote and recorded the song in 2002. (Unfortunately the album it was on, Poodle Hat, came out in 2003.)
  • 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."
    • Note that the logo of ABBA is even a visual palindrome, due to the fact that Benny held his "B" wrong side during the photoshoot, and when they found out, they thought it was a great idea and kept it as official logo.
  • Grateful Dead's 1969 album Aoxomoxoa.
  • German punk band "Abwärts" debut album "Amok Koma".
  • Satan Oscillate My Metallic Sonatas is the title of both a track by Luke Vibert and an EP by Soundgarden.
  • Two albums using the same idea, Live Evil (a live Black Sabbath album, the cover even spells it "live ǝvil" to make the palindrome clear) and Live-Evil (a Miles Davis album with both live and studio recordings; the back cover mirrors the artist name).
  • French band Jad Wio has the song "Un drôle de lord nu" (translated from French, it means "a weird naked lord"). The lyrics even lampshade it.

  • Finnish humoristic radio series Alivaltiosihteeri always includes the weekly palindrome. Given that Finnish is crazy adaptable to such, the palindromes tend to be five 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.")

    Stand-Up Comedy 
  • 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...
    ... and my brother Kayak."

    Video Games 
  • A sidequest in Might and Magic V: Darkside of Xeen involves the Drawkcab Monks, who speak in palindromes.
  • 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: Lisa Basil, Glen Elg, and Adam Mada.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
  • Pokémon:
    • Girafarig has a palindromic name, in both English and Japanese (Kirinriki), because it has A Head at Each End. Pokémon Scarlet and Violet introduced its evolution Farigiraf, whose name is likewise a palindrome in English (although its Japanese name, Rikikirin, isn't, being a Significant Anagram instead).
    • 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 Japanese name of the antagonist of Mother and Mother 2, ギーグ (giigu), is officially transliterated as Gyiyg.
  • At various random points in Ad Verbum, the Wizard of Wordplay will wander into the current room, make a palindromic pronouncement, and then reverse out of the room again.

  • Palindramas probably has more examples than every other work put together.

    Western Animation 
  • The Simpsons:
    • In "They Saved Lisa's Brain", the Springfield 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, "Bart the Genius", Bart cheats on an exam and finds 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 Professor Ross Eforp, creator of football X7. Unfortunately, "anti-palindrome" hysteria forced him to spend his life in hiding.
  • A Robot Chicken skit has Batman face Palindrome, a villain who speaks entirely in these, as a parody of some of his more outlandish villains. Batman actually claps after the villain launches into a very long palindromic soliloquy.

  • 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."
  • A bit of self-ref: You can use "palindrome" quite well in a French or Russian palindrome: "Он дивен, палиндром: и ни морд, ни лап не видно" (It's wonderful, a palindrome: and neither muzzles, nor paws are visible, Cyril Reshetnikow)
  • mdadm, a Linux command.
  • "A man, a plan, a canal — Panama." Refers to President Theodore Roosevelt, who got the ball rolling on the big dig.

    Real Life 
  • 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.
  • American actor Robert Trebor chose his stage name by palindromizing his first name (his real last name is Schenkman).
  • Ditto British actor Steve Evets (né Murphy).
  • "Aibohphobia" is a joke word for the fear of palindromes. Obviously, this is not an actual medical condition.
  • "Able was I ere I saw Elba", attributed to Napoleon Bonaparte.