Welcome to Trivia Thursday.
Word Nymph has declared this Language Trivia week. Every day of this week, Monday through Saturday, I’m throwing out a question. Have you been playing? If you know the answer or would like to take a guess, do so as a Comment to that day’s post or simply wait until next Monday, when all answers will be revealed. Good luck!
We know that a word that is spelled the same forward and backward is a palindrome. What is the name of a word that reads the same upside down as right side up, or the same in a mirror, when certain typography is applied? Can you provide some examples?
6 responses to “Trivia Thursday”
I can’t remember the name/term, but the example is the word “MADAM” (in uppercase).
I’m not sure if you are looking for examples of palindromic words that can be reflected/inverted or both without the use of special typography.
“MADAM” of course is a palindrome, but it won’t read the same when reflected or inverted unless special typography is employed, since neither A nor M possess horizontal symmetry. Using clever typography, probably any word can be made to appear symmetric.
With regard to natural symmetry:
H, I, N, O, S, X, and Z have inverse symmetry (they read the same upside down as right side up.) So, NOON and SIS are inverted or vertically-flipped words, in that they will be identical if you give the paper upon which they are written a 180 degree turn.
A, H, I, M, O, T, U, V, W, X, and Y possess vertical symmetry (their left and right sides are mirror images.) So, words like HAH, MAM, MOM, TAT, TIT, TOT, TOOT, WOW and YAY are mirror or horizontally-flipped words, in that their mirror reflections appear the same as the originals.
B, C, D, E, H, I ,K, O, and X have horizontal symmetry (their top and bottom halves reflect each other.) Therefore, if you turn them upside down and reflect them, they appear the same as before. Thus, BIB, BOB, BOOB, DID and KOOK are inverted-mirror words (term my own.)
Civic, dad, deed, deified, dud, eye, kayak, level, madam, nun, pip, poop, pop, pup, racecar, radar, redder, refer, repaper, redivider, reviver, rotator, rotor and tenet are classic palindromic words that, with normal typography, do not possess symmetry, as is true of the palindromic names Ada, Anna, Ava, Bob, Eve, Hannah, Lil, Nan, Otto and Viv. There are also palindromic words formed by creating plurals: sagas, shahs, solos. “Pull-up” obviously involves a hyphen.
I have seen fancy versions of these non-symmetric palindromic words made symmetric through the use of specialized typography, and I look forward to seeing your examples.
I also recommend that you seek out the following book if you don’t have it as it is full of nearly every kind of word play there is. I was fortunate enough to find it on clearance at Borders a few year’s ago and some of my above information comes from it:
Word Circus by Richard Lederer, Merriam-Webster, 1998
Geez, given that last answer … why bother answering!?
Yeah, I guess I spent too much time thinking about it. I did figure out the (symmetric) palindromic words on my own, though, which are all pretty dull. I didn’t provide examples of the ones which require typographic cleverness.
Sharon deserves a NOD (almost symetric) for the answer of the week.