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Post at Sop: Okay, I Suck at Palindromes

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You may have heard the old palindrome “A man, a plan, a canal: Panama!” (For those of you that don’t know, a palindrome is a word or sentence that’s the same forwards and backwards, like “kayak,” “racecar,” or “Madam, I’m Adam.”)

Ever wondered who wrote it? Well, according to this page I found on Fun with Words, we’ll never know because it sort of constructs itself. That is, anyone interested in making a palindrome about Panama (in English) will recreate this particular one. Here’s why.

PANAMA reversed is AMANAP

Which breaks down into A MAN A P

Now, there are two common words that start with P and rhyme with MAN. They are PAN and PLAN. And since Panama doesn’t have anything to do with pans, the obvious choice is PLAN.

A MAN A PLAN reversed is NAL PANAMA.

What words end in –NAL that might relate to PANAMA? How about the obvious CANAL?

And with that, the palindrome is complete: A MAN, A PLAN, A CANAL: PANAMA!

Also on that page, however, is a much longer Panama-themed palindrome that doesn’t self-construct itself:

A man, a plan, a canoe, pasta, heros, rajahs, a coloratura, maps, snipe, percale, macaroni, a gag, a banana bag, a tan, a tag, a banana bag again (or a camel), a crepe, pins, Spam, a rut, a Rolo, cash, a jar, sore hats, a peon, a canal: Panama!

Another long palindrome was written by comedian Demetri Martin. It’s called Dammit I’m Mad and it’s more than 200 words long. Also, it doesn’t make a lot of sense, but that only slightly detracts from its awesomeness.

The reason I’m bringing this up at all is because my local Arkansas bank sends me E-statements with the subject “A Man, A Plan, a Canal: You’re Awesome!”, a joke that only makes sense if you’re familiar with the palindrome.

I think that’s awesome, and to be commended.

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Written by Greg Karber

March 3, 2010 at 11:17 am

One Response

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  1. Of course, Martin has nothing on this 15,319 word palindrome, which is also a parody of the Panama palindrome and blows the one I posted out of the water: http://norvig.com/pal1txt.html

    Greg Karber

    March 3, 2010 at 11:39 am


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