Friday, December 10, 2010

The Longest Palindromic Word Is ...

... well, I'll get to that in a minute. I've begun reading Martin Gardner's last book, the Colossal Book of Word Play. I'll pull out some good bits as I read along, and then write a full review. This is Martin's final work, gathered from a life-time of collecting wordplay, assembled with the help of Jeopardy super-winner Ken Jennings, and posthumously published by Puzzle Wright Press.

Anyway, back to the headline question. The longest single-word palindrome is, sadly, not in English, but in Finnish. The word is saippuakivikauppias and it means ... soap-stone vendor. This raises the question, "Why did they need a word for that?" (Actually, I'm guessing Finnish must be like German, which pushes multiple words words together, as in the German herzkreislaufwiederbelebung, which literally means "heart-circle-run-again-revive," or as we say in English, "C.P.R.")

Gardner also included examples of "whole-word" palindromes, in which a sentence can be read forward or backward word-by-word. For example: You can cage a swallow, can't you, but you can't swallow a cage, can you?


Anonymous said...

"This begs the question..."

Mmrrph... "This raises the question..." not "This begs the question..."

To "beg the question" means something else.

I'll stop being so anal now...

Thomas L. McDonald said...

No worries! I do the same thing, and you're completely correct. I usually try to avoid those stupid mistakes. Now if I could only sort out "that" and "which."

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