'A man, a plan, a canal--Panama' (1955)

Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at RCI.RUTGERS.EDU
Sat Dec 11 18:18:07 UTC 2004

On Sat, 11 Dec 2004 08:05:43 -0500, Fred Shapiro <fred.shapiro at YALE.EDU>

>On Sat, 11 Dec 2004, Benjamin Zimmer wrote:
>> That palindrome was published in 1948 by Leigh Mercer, though it's
>> possible that Mercer was not the first to have found it.  From _Word
>> Ways: The Journal of Recreational Linguistics_:
>Does anyone know of any other very famous palindromes, tongue twisters,
>limericks, etc., for which there is a known or putative coinage?

For palindromes, these sites list some attributions:

(The Palindromist magazine)

(FAQ for the rec.puzzles newsgroup)

The earliest English palindrome with a firm attribution is by the poet
John Taylor (1614): "Lewd did I live, & evil I did dwel."  My favorite is
attributed to British codebreaker Peter Hilton (1943): "Doc, note, I
dissent. A fast never prevents a fatness. I diet on cod."

More information can be found in _Palindromes and Anagrams_ by Howard W.
Bergerson (Dover, 1973).  That book also lists famous anagrams and their
attributions, including those by the late David Shulman (under "Ab
Struse", his nom de plume for the National Puzzlers League).

More comprehensive collections of palindromes and anagrams have been
published as _Word Ways_ monographs: <http://wordways.com/dissert.htm>.

--Ben Zimmer

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