Arts &
  Arts Culture Analysis  
Vol. 9, No. 3, 2010
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Robert J. Lewis
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Sylvain Richard
David Solway
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Richard Rodriguez
Pico Iyer
Edward Said
Jean Baudrillard
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Barbara Ehrenreich
Leon Wieseltier
Nayan Chanda
Charles Lewis
John Lavery
Tariq Ali
Michael Albert
Rochelle Gurstein
Alex Waterhouse-Hayward

finding a home for the

Howard Richler



Howard Richler is the author of The Dead Sea Scroll Palindromes,Take My Words, A Bawdy Language, Global Mother Tongue, Can I Have a Word with You? and Strange Bedfellows: The Private Lives of Words.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines a palindrome as “a word or a sequence of words that reads, letter for letter, the same backwards as forwards.” Examples of palindromes are ‘level,’ ‘deified,’ and ‘racecar’ and sentences such as: ‘Madame, I`m Adam,’ and ‘Was it a rat I saw?’ The word palindrome derives from the Greek palindromos, which translates as “running back again.” It should not be confused with hippodrome or a velodrome, which are arenas where horses and bicycles are, hopefully, running only forward.

Sotades, a Thracian iconoclast, is generally credited with inventing palindromic sentences. This accounts for the alternate name for apalindromes – ‘Sotadics.’ Sotades, however, burst one balloon too many. He made the mistake of satirizing the Egyptian king Ptolemy II in one of his palindromes. The humourless king didn`t appreciate Sotades' wit and had him stuffed inside a lead chest and thrown in the sea.

The majority of palindromes seem to be written in Latin and English but their use is not unknown to other languages. The palindromist Alastair Reid, in his book Passwords written in 1959, quotes palindromes in French, Eh, ca va, la vache?, and Spanish, Dabale arroz a la zorra el abad, which my limited Spanish tells me has something to do with rice, a prostitute and an abbot.

John Taylor is credited with devising the first English palindrome. In his Nipping or Snipping of Abuses, written in 1614, he confesses palindromically, “Lewd did I live, & evil I did dwel.” ‘Dwel’ is an old spelling of ‘dwell’ and the use of an ampersand is not totally kosher. Symmetry can be returned to the universe if we rewrite it like this, “Evil I did dwell; lewd did I live.” One of the best known English palindromes is attributed to an enisled Anglophile Napoleon who is purported to have intoned “Able was I ere I saw Elba.” Perhaps inspired by the immortality Napoleon attained by his palindromic lament, twentieth century politicians and leaders have had a penchant for palindromic ejaculations. Curiously, all these utterances are in English. Here is a sampling:

A man, a plan, a canal-Panama. (Woodrow Wilson dedicates the opening of the Panama Canal to its chief engineer, George Washington Goethals -- 1914).

Jar a tonga; nag not a raj. (Winston Churchill admonishes Mahatma Gandhi -- 1942).

Can I attain a C? (George Bush soliloquizes in his quest for mediocrity while attending Yale University -- 1967).

To last, Carter retracts a lot. (During his Presidential debate with Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford charges his opponent with vacillation -- 1976).

No evil Shahs live on. (Attributed to Ayatollah Khoumeini -- 1979).

Drat! Saddam a mad dastard. (The Emir of Kuwait, expresses his disdain for Saddam Hussein -- 1990).

No in uneven union! (In a speech to the Monarchist League of Canada, Jacques Parizeau declares that he will no longer tolerate a second class status for Quebec -- 1995). = shared webhosting, dedicated servers, development/consulting, no down time/top security, exceptional prices
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Montreal World Film Festival
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Montreal Jazz Festival
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