Blogs > Jim Collins' Editor's Notebook

Jim Collins is editor emeritus of The News-Herald and also serves as executive in residence at Lakeland Community College. His popular weekly column appears each Sunday in Comment in The News-Herald.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Word games provide never-ending challenges

I have always liked word games.
As I mentioned when I recalled remembrances of Downtown Willoughby from around 1934, the word game I played with my mother and brother as we sat in the car while my dad’s band was playing downstairs at the smoke-filled Waldorf Cafe beneath Harry Simon’s store, was rearranging the names of the Cleveland Indians players to spell other words.
These are called anagrams. For example, Roy Weatherly became ... oh, I forget.
But there are other combinations of letters that are not anagrams. If they spell the same word backward or forward, they are called palindromes.
The two easiest ones are mom and dad. There is also radar, as well as the former third baseman of the Indians, Toby Harrah.
The most famous palindrome of all time, as far as I know, is “Able was I ere I saw Elba.”
Isn’t that terrific? I don’t know who made it up, but he or she must have had a lot of time on his or her hands.
But Bud Boylan, one of my most loyal readers, and whom I have never met, sent me one the other day which is a doozie.
I wish doozie were a palindrome, but unfortunately it is not, because spelled backward it is “eizood,” which doesn’t make a lot of sense if you stop to think about it.
In fact, if you stop to think about Downtown Willoughby in 1934, that does make a lot of sense. At least, it does to my friend Tim Wright of Concord Township because he said he enjoyed very much reading those columns.
Do you know why? Because where he grew up, in Parma, there was no downtown. They had a bunch of people and a lot of stores, but they had no downtown. And that is sad to say.
Believe me, I know, because I lived there for 15 months in 1959 and 1960, and Tim is right – or Wright, as the case may be.
I spent a lot of time looking for Downtown Parma, and there was no such place. Tim says there was a Downtown Parma Heights, and that makes sense, because Paul Cassidy was mayor of Parma Heights, and he was such a persuasive guy that if he was going to be mayor of a city, it would have a downtown or he would see to it that it did.
This I do know: Somebody there knew how to spell Parma backward, because there is an Amrap Drive, which I think is hilarious.
But I digress. This has little or nothing to do with palindromes, and I’ll bet you are sitting on the edge of your rocking chair waiting to find out the one that Bud Boylan sent to me.
Here, in a word, it is:
“Go hang a salami, I’m a lasagna hog.”
If you spell that backward, you will realize it is the same as it is frontward.
Creating that brief sentence is quite a literary accomplishment. If you can come up with anything nearly as complicated, please send it to me – with this warning.
If you send it by email, I may get it and I may not. To me, email is not a dependable means of communication, because sometimes I receive them and sometimes I do not.
It all has to do with a number of factors over which I have no control. So if you have been waiting for two or three months to receive an email from me, it is because it has not arrived at this end yet.
But please be patient, because it will probably get here someday. Or someyear.
I would rather you would write to me in boustrophedon, which is really difficult because at first glance it doesn’t seem to make a great deal of sense.
It means plow wise. Think of it as a farmer plowing his field. When he plows a row, he doesn’t go back to where he started and plow again in the same direction. No. He turns around and plows in the opposite direction.
In summertime in Bredon,
Nodehportsuob ni etorw I,
Now nobody in Britain,
Nettirw evah I tahw daer nac.
If you can read that little couplet, then you are able to read in boustrophedon.
Which in itself is quite an accomplishment.
Now, let’s brush up on our palindromes and we’ll call it a day.
Or a week.
One or the other.


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