Let’s have fun with words: palindromes

January 17, 2019 10:30 am

How wonderful it is to be able to play with language! To be able to create words, phrases and texts and have fun with it. A unifying trait of all cultures and languages is the desire to have fun with language, disregarding grammatical rules and restrictions to turn it into a game of words and sounds that renders communication a dynamic and living art. Today in termcoord we want to talk about one of the most effective resources for this purpose: palindromes.

The word palindrome comes from the Greek: palin dromein, which means to go backwards. Therefore, palindromes are words or sentences that can be interpreted the same way, whether you read them forwards or backwards.

Logically, palindromic phrases resent their meaning the longer they are. The greater the length of the sentence, the greater the complexity. That can sometimes result in sentences that, although grammatically correct, will sound a bit awkward and often funny. For example, there is even a palindromic word –Aibohphobia– that means a fear of palindromes.

Palindromes have been popular since ancient times. It is said that in ancient Greece, the most erudite practiced this “language game”. The first palindromes are attributed to the Greek poet Sotades (3rd century BC). It is believed that palindromes first came to life through a satirical poem that Sotades wrote for Ptolemy king of Alexandria, who married his own daughter Arsinoë. Sotades wrote a palindromic verse mocking him. He was soon captured by Ptolemy’s soldiers who put him in a basket and threw him into the sea. Luckily, nowadays we can enjoy the pleasures of palindromes without fear of being killed by the King of Egypt, or anyone else.

Let’s see some examples and feel free to propose your own. Let’s play with words!

ENGLISH:
– “Murder for a jar of red rum”
– “A man, a plan, a canal: Panama”

GERMAN:
– ”Trug Tim eine so helle Hose nie mit Gurt?” (Did Tim never wear such light (in color) pants without a belt?)
– “Ein Esel lese nie” (A donkey should never read)

FRENCH:
– “Esope reste ici et se repose” (Aesop remains here and rests)
– “Engage le jeu que je le gagne“ (Kick off the game, so that I win it)

ITALIAN:
– “Amore, Roma” (Love, Rome)
– “Avida di vita, desiai ogni amore vero, ma ingoiai sedativi, da Diva” (Eager of life, I desired every real love, but I ended swallowing sedatives, as a Diva)

SPANISH:
– “¡Arriba la birra!” (Hurrah the beer!)
– “Adán no cede con Eva, Yavé no cede con nada” (Adam doesn´t give in to Eve, Yahweh doesn´t give in to anything)
– “Yo soy” (I am)

PORTUGUESE:
– “A base do teto desaba” (The base of the roof collapses)
– “Erro comum ocorre” (Common mistakes happen)

IRISH:
– “A Nóinín, níl an rí anocht ar Ráth Conair, ná linn in Iona” (Daisy, the king is neither on Conair’s fort tonight, nor with us in Iona).

DANISH:
– “En af dem der red med fane” (One of those who rode with a flag)
– “Selmas lakserøde garagedøre skal samles“ (Selma’s salmon red garage doors must be assembled)

LITHUANIAN:
– “Sėdėk užu kėdės” (Sit behind the chair!)

SLOVAK:
– “Matej je tam” (Matej is there)

LATVIAN:
– “ātram slidas sadils martā” (For quick one skates will wear out in March)
– “Alus ir(a) ari sula” (Beer is also juice)

ESTONIAN:
– “Aias sadas saia” (It rained white bread in the garden)
– “Kuulilennuteetunneliluuk” (The hatch of the tunnel of the bullet’s flight path/trajectory)

ROMANIAN:
– “Ele ne seduc cu desenele” (They seduce us with their drawings)
– “Românii-s aşi în amor” (Romanians are aces in love)
– “Era nudă la Dunăre” (She was naked, facing the Danube)

HUNGARIAN:
– “Géza, kék az ég” (Géza, the sky is blue)
– “Rám német nem lel, elmentem én már” (The Germans won’t find me, I’m already gone)

CROATIAN:
– “I jogurt ujutru goji” (In the morning even yogurt makes you fat)
– “Sir ima miris” (Cheese has a smell)

GREEK:
– “Νίψον ανομήματα μη μόναν όψιν” (Wash off our sins, not only our face)
– “Σος ειμί, τίμιε, σός“ (Yours, I am, honest, yours)

BULGARIAN:
– “Нещо метълът е мощен” (Metal music is mighty)
– “А дават хубава лилава бухта в ада” (And they give you a nice purple muffin in hell)

SOURCES:
https://edl.ecml.at/Fun/Palindromes/tabid/3104/language/Default.aspx
https://www.grammarly.com/blog/16-surprisingly-funny-palindromes/
https://www.altalang.com/beyond-words/12-amazing-palindromes-from-around-the-world/
https://forum.duolingo.com/comment/26375967/Palindromes-in-different-languages
https://europeisnotdead.com/disco/expressions-of-europe/european-palindromes/
https://www.ecured.cu/Pal%C3%ADndromo

 


Written by Marta Guillén Martínez – Communication Trainee at the Terminology Coordination Unit of the European Parliament (Luxembourg). She holds a Degree in Advertising and Public Relations from the University of Alicante, Spain and she did her European Voluntary Service on communication and european youth mobility in Milan, Italy. She speaks Spanish, Catalan, English and Italian.

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