Archive for the ‘Anagrams’ Category

The effeminate elephant

March 29, 2022

Effeminacy in the animal world, first in yesterday’s (3/28) Wayno/Piraro Bizarro:

(#1) Not only elephant effeminacy, but also a cosmetic anagram, a rouge and peasant salve (If you’re puzzled by the odd symbols in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there are 5 in this strip — see this Page.)

And in one of my academic collages, with mice in the lab:

(#2) Continuing the theme of makeup for males


Anagramming coreligionists

February 7, 2022

Two very brief digressions from yesterday’s posting “The SIN and GUILT of a LINGUIST” that wander far afield, even for me: on what I called there “the lit(t)eral magic of anagramming”, one type of letter-based magical thinking; and on words for someone who shares some group membership with you, as John Wells (the reporter of the anagram SIN + GUILT = LINGUIST) does with me, several times over.

Revelatory anagrams and their cousins. Anagrams function primarily in our culture as language play, in various forms. But occasionally, someone sees them as revealing deeper truths (a linguist really is steeped in guilt and sin?), and occasionally anagram names are devised with this in mind: the Tales of the City character ANNA MADRIGAL, who is A MAN AND A GIRL.

On the model of numerology —

noun numerology: the branch of knowledge that deals with the occult significance of numbers. (NOAD)

you might call assigning occult significance to anagrams anagrammatology.

Meanwhile, there are several traditions of what you might call alphabetic numerology: assigning numerical values to the letters of an alphabet and so to words, names, and ideas.

Coreligionists and their cousins. John Wells and I share membership in several socioculturally significant groups: we are (at least) both (cis) men, both Anglophones, both (some brand of) white person of European ancestry, both academic linguists, both homosexual / gay / queer, and both in our 80s (so of the generation in between the generation that fought WWII and the boomers, and also of the plague generation, the generation of gay men that was devastated by AIDS). I can, of course, refer to these shared memberships by naming the specific groups we both belong to, as I have done in the previous sentence — though I note that these delineations tend to be complex and wordy.

For many purposes, it would be sufficient to note that we share a category, rather than going into the details of stipulating what that category is. For one category — religion — there is such a term: coreligionist (also spelled co-religionist). From NOAD:

noun coreligionist: an adherent of the same religion as another person: it is very sad that these people call themselves my co-religionists.

Earlier in our lives, John Wells and I were indeed coreligionists: specifically, Protestant Christians of the Anglican persuasion. I believe John has maintained this identity, but I have fallen away and am now a nonbeliever (though the church that I don’t belong to is a socially liberal Episcopal church, so John and I still share some shred of coreligionism).

It would be useful to have similar terms for people sharing race, ethnicity, nationality, occupation, sexual orientation, generation, or geographical region (and probably more categories I haven’t considered), but as far as I can see, English has none of them. Some of them you could devise on the model of coreligionist: co-occupationist, co-orientationist, cogenerationist (all applying to John and me), but others would clearly require a different model (co-racist and co-nationalist, given existing racist and nationalist).

[Added 2/8, from NOAD: noun compatriot: a fellow citizen or national of a country: Stich defeated his compatriot Boris Becker in the quarterfinals.]


February 6, 2022

The admirable John Wells has made my Sunday morning by informing us on Facebook that the Sunday Times (of London) cryptic crossword contains the anagram


Secretly, linguists have known all along that each of us bears the stain of sin and guilt. Now that hard truth has been made bare via the lit(t)eral magic of anagramming.

We cry out to be shriven, to present ourselves for confession, penance, and absolution. Give us peace.

In the words of a hymn text by Charles Cole (1791), set to the tune Gospel Trumpet in the 1991 revision of the Denson Sacred Harp:

Thy blood, dear Jesus, once was spilt
To save our souls from sin and guilt,
And sinners now may come to God
And find salvation through Thy blood


The didactyl anteater, Anteater D, aka The Antedater

March 3, 2019

It began five months ago, on ADS-L, the American Dialect Society mailing list, with a note from the compiler of the Yale Book of Quotations about a piece he’d recently published:

Fred R. Shapiro, Confessions of the Antedater. Dictionaries: Journal of the Dictionary Society of North America 39.1.23-42 (2018).

An engaging and informative essay about finding earlier and earlier citations for English words and phrases. At the time, ADS-Ler Mark Mandel exclaimed:

At first I saw it as “Confessions of an Anteater”!

and Larry Horn chimed in:

Me too … Indeed, my mailer tells me that when I type “antedater” I really meant “anteater”.  Maybe someone should work on a logo

I seconded the suggestion, but then no one did anything until Fred’s piece came up again yesterday, and everybody made the same misreading again — and I came up not with a logo, but with a mascot, an Anteater With a D, the adorable little Silky Anteater didactylus.


Naming the Beast

February 6, 2017

For some time now, I’ve avoided posting about the current POTUS, which has meant not posting a great many cartoons that come my way (most cartoonists are savagely critical of him), or posting the cartoons but not even mentioning his appearance in them. Initially, I referred to him only mockingly: Herr Drumpf at first, then Helmet Grabpussy. Now, many of my friends and acquaintances practice the policy of mentioning him as little as possible and, where necessary, not using his name; [REDACTED] and POTUS are two reference strategies along these lines.

Even so, I’m tickled by an observation made by the Canadian comedian Colin Mochrie — hat tip to Chris Ambidge — that Lord Dampnut is an anagram of POTUS’s real name.

Eliding the black penis

November 9, 2016

A remarkable long piece in the New York Times Magazine Culture issue on October 30th, by film critic and general cultural critic Wesley Morris, “The Last Taboo: Why American pop culture just can’t deal with black male sexuality”, on the elision (or, alternatively, mythologization) of black male sexuality. In a supremely ironic development, the text of Morris’s piece has itself been elided from the public record (no doubt by massive incompetence rather than malevolence): links on the NYT site (and, as far as I can tell, on all sites that refer to “The Last Taboo”) take you not to this article but to another, racially and sexually irrelevant, Morris piece, “Uncommon Ground: Our New Urban Oases”, on elevated railways turned into pedestrian parks, which is identified as being from the NYT Magazine’s Culture issue (puzzlingly dated October 27th), but it’s not in that issue.

I’ll start by showing you scans of the title pages of “The Last Taboo”, just to show you that I’m not making this up, and then go on to quoting at some length from Morris’s text, which I have spent a very long time typing in by hand.


Briefly: vice-presidential anagrams

August 24, 2016

In the August 2016 issue of Funny Times, a reprinting of a Dave Barry column (from the 7/26 Miami Herald), “Is this what really goes on inside the Democratic dance and beer hall?” (about the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia), ending:

I will conclude today’s report with the following:

UPDATE ON TIM KAINE: At this point, all we know for certain about him is that the letters in “Tim Kaine” can be rearranged to spell “I eat mink.”

Even better: “Ain’t Mike”.

As for his Repblican counterpart: “Mike Pence” anagrams to “Keep mince”, or better: “Pink emcee”. I love the idea of anti-gay Pence flouncing on stage in pink.

That concludes today’s political commentary.