A palindrome is a single word, sentence, or phrase written in such a manner that it can be read the same way backwards and forwards. This literary device is a representation of the mirror symmetry typical of Indo-European words.
In poetry, a palindrome is an artificial verse form. It can be created in two ways: 1) either the reader can read separate letters in reverse and receive the same poem or 2) the words themselves make up the original verse regardless if it’s been read from the end or the beginning.
The term itself derives from two ancient Greek words: "palin," which can be defined as "again," and "dromos" that means "direction" or "path." The literal translation of this term is "running backwards." It was invented in the 3rd century BC by Sotades the Obscene of Maronea, before spreading across Latin-speaking countries in medieval times.
The discovery of palindromes is a result of humanity's ever-longing desire to experiment with words and try to figure out their secrets and deeper meanings. The perfect correlation between the direct and reverse readings has created an illusion that such a text fragment has more value than a regular sentence or phrase.
The most popular palindrome, which is about two thousand years old, is the "magic square" that consists of the words Sator, Arepo, Tenet, Opera, and Rotas. When written in lines, they can be read the same way in all directions. Thanks to its uniqueness, these words were oftentimes believed to have supernatural powers. Palindromes were also used to decorate vases, cups, and other round objects due to their eye-pleasing appearance.
Nowadays, it isn't the mystical nature of this literary device that creates interest for authors, but the fact that it presents an interesting puzzle. Writers see it as a challenge for their creative capabilities that demands masterful wielding of the written word.
A palindrome is commonly confused with a backronym, also known as a semordnilap. This literary tool also involves reverse reading. Only, in this case, the backwards result is a different word. For example, the word "desserts" is "stressed" with reverse spelling.
Another literary device that people mistake with palindromes is an anagram. This tool deals with the rearrangement of several letters in one or several words to create a different word or phrase. For example, the phrase "a rope ends it" is an anagram of the word "desperation."
Palindromes can be found in most European languages, including English (civic, level, radar, racecar, etc.). Phrases are harder to come by but usually present more interest for researchers, as they carry more meaning.
Authors that strive to use palindromes in their works are mostly forced to use short words with just a few syllables and sacrifice logic or proper grammar to achieve the necessary effect. To complete a phrase or a sentence, writers also tend to create occasional words. This is a result of their search for means that better represent the idea they put in their work.
Poets use this tool to add more aesthetic value to their lines and give a poem a more organized visual look. However, palindromes aren’t limited to poetry and can be found in other literary genres as well. Their primary function is to provide humor and to entertain the reader. This literary device is especially prevalent in children's books since young minds find more joy in this type of wordplay.
Even though palindrome text fragments require a lot of effort to be created, their disadvantage is that most of them lack a cohesive meaning. Thus, palindromes can rarely be found in critically-acclaimed literary works, and their range of usage is rather narrow. While fragments like "Madam in Eden, I'm Adam," or "Rats live on no evil star" can provide some comical value and catch the reader’s attention, they don't achieve anything more than that.
Palindromes are also quite widely represented in character names, as authors use this tool either for a humorous effect or to bring the reader's attention to it. For example, Louis Sachar gave a hero of one of his short stories the name Stanley Yelnats.
A number of modern writers have managed to create entire stories using this literary device. "Dr. Awkward & Olson in Oslo" is a thirty-one thousand words long palindrome written by Lawrence Levin. An even more remarkable feat was accomplished by David Stephens whose short story called "Veritas" is almost sixty thousand words in total.
A palindrome is a single word or a text fragment that can be read the same way in both directions. A more refined version of this literary device is an entire poem that was created using the same principle. This tool was discovered in the 3rd century BC in ancient Greece, and its loose translation is "running backwards."
A palindrome is an embodiment of absolute symmetry in literature. Such symmetry not only grants this device harmony in graphical representation but also makes the sounding more melodic. Palindromes are one of the most complicated forms of wordplay.