“Palindrome: (Greek ‘running back again’): A word or sentence (occasionally a verse) which reads the same both ways. Common words are: civic, level, minim, radar, rotor. Famous examples of such phrase or sentences are: (a) ‘Madam, I’m Adam’, to which the reply was ‘Sir, I’m Iris; (b) ‘Able was I ere I saw Elba’ (attributed apocryphally to Napoleon who, alas, spoke no English); (c) ‘Sums are not set as a test on Erasmus’; (d) ‘A man, a plan, a canal—Panama!’; (e) “’In girum imus nocte et consumimur igni’, said by moths in flight; (f) ‘Straw? No, too stupid a fad; I put soot on warts!’; (g) ‘Deliver desserts’, demanded Nemesis, emended named, stressed, reviled; (h) T. Eliot, top bard, notes putrid tang emanating, is sad. I’d assign it a name: ‘Gnat dirt upset on drab pot toilet’ (by W.H. Auden); (i) Stop Syrian! I start at rats in airy spots; (j) Sex at noon taxes; (j) SIROMORIS—this was the telegraphic address on the writing paper of Edward Elgar (1857-1934), who was knighted and appointed OM. There are numerical palindromes. A simple example is: add 132 to 321 for the total 363.

The best known collection of verses was that produced by one Ambrose Pamperis in 1802. It consists of 416 palindromic verses recounting the campaigns of Catherine the Great.”

Excerpted from: Cuddon, J.A. The Penguin Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory. New York: Penguin, 1992.

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