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Anagram

[an-uh-gram]

An anagram (Greek anagramma 'letters written anew', passive participle of ana- 'again' + gramma 'letter') is a type of word play, the result of rearranging the letters of a word or phrase to produce a new word or phrase, using all the original letters exactly once; e.g., Eleven plus two = Twelve plus one, A decimal point = I'm a dot in place, Astronomers = Moon starers. Someone who creates anagrams is called an anagrammatist. The original word or phrase is known as the subject of the anagram.

Technically, any word or phrase that exactly reproduces the letters in another is an anagram; e.g., saltine = entails. However, the goal of serious or skilled anagrammatists is to produce anagrams which, in some way, reflect or comment on the subject. Such an anagram may be a synonym or antonym of its subject, a parody, a criticism, or praise; e.g. George Bush = He bugs Gore.; Madonna Louise Ciccone = Occasional nude income; William Shakespeare = I am a weakish speller, and Roger Meddows-Taylor = Great words or melody. Another goal of anagrammatists is to produce an anagram which is not only new, or previously unknown to others, but is also considered sufficiently clever to become widely known and enter the canon of famous or classic anagrams, like the examples below.

History

The construction of anagrams is an amusement of great antiquity. They were popular throughout Europe during the Middle Ages, although it is widely believed the art of anagramming was invented by the Greek poet Lycophron.

W. Camden (Remains, 7th ed., 1674) defines "Anagrammatisme" as "a dissolution of a name truly written into his letters, as his elements, and a new connection of it by artificial transposition, without addition, subtraction or change of any letter, into different words, making some perfect sense applyable (i.e., applicable) to the person named." Dryden disdainfully called the pastime the "torturing of one poor word ten thousand ways" but many men and women of note have found amusement in it.

A well-known anagram is the change of "Ave Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum" (Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord [is] with you) into "Virgo serena, pia, munda et immaculata" (Serene virgin, pious, clean and spotless). Among others are the anagrammatic answer to Pilate's question, "Quid est veritas?" (What is truth?), namely, "Est vir qui adest" (It is the man who is here); and the transposition of "Horatio Nelson" into "Honor est a Nilo" (Latin = Honor is from the Nile); and of "Florence Nightingale" into "Flit on, cheering angel". James I's courtiers discovered in "James Stuart" "a just master", and converted "Charles James Stuart" into "Claims Arthur's seat" (even at that point in time, the letters I and J were more-or-less interchangeable). "Eleanor Audeley", wife of Sir John Davies, is said to have been brought before the High Commission in 1634 for extravagances, stimulated by the discovery that her name could be transposed to "Reveale, O Daniel", and to have been laughed out of court by another anagram submitted by the dean of the Arches, "Dame Eleanor Davies", "Never soe mad a ladie".

Some of the astronomers of the 17th century transposed their discoveries into anagrams, apparently with the design of avoiding the risk that, while they were engaged in further verification, the credit of what they had found out might be claimed by others. Thus Galileo announced his discovery that Venus had phases like the Moon in the form "Haec immatura a me iam frustra leguntur -oy" (Latin: These immature ones have already been read in vain by me -oy), that is, when rearranged, "Cynthiae figuras aemulatur Mater Amorum" (Latin: The Mother of Loves [= Venus] imitates the figures of Cynthia [= the moon]). Similarly, when Robert Hooke discovered Hooke's law in 1660, he first published it in anagram form. One might think of this as a primitive example of a zero-knowledge proof.

Names

A continuing popular amusement is the construction of apposite anagrams of the names of famous people (or friends); for example, Margaret Thatcher = That great charmer, Alec Guinness = Genuine Class, Elvis Aaron Presley = Seen alive? Sorry, pal!, Vin Diesel = I End Lives, Steve Martin = I’m star event, David Ginola = Vagina Dildo, Clint Eastwood = Old West Action, or Axl Rose = Oral Sex.

What is the most anagrammable name on record? There must be few names as deliciously workable as that of "Augustus de Morgan" who tells that a friend had constructed about 800 on his name (specimens of which are given in his Budget of Paradoxes, p. 82)

Examples of anagrams

Anagram
George Bush He bugs Gore
Madonna Louise Ciccone Occasional nude income
Sida Aids
William Shakespeare I am a weakish speller
Axl Rose Oralsex
Shoghi Effendi (Bahá'í-lärans Beskyddare 1921 - 1957) Feed of High Sin / Fees Info High

Pseudonyms

The pseudonyms adopted by authors are sometimes transposed forms, more or less exact, of their names; thus "Calvinus" becomes "Alcuinus" (V = U); "Francois Rabelais" = "Alcofribas Nasier"; "Arrigo Boito" = "Tobia Gorrio"; "Edward Gorey" = "Ogdred Weary", = "Regera Dowdy" or = "E. G. Deadworry" (and others); "Vladimir Nabokov" = "Vivian Darkbloom", = "Vivian Bloodmark" or = "Dorian Vivalcomb"; "Bryan Waller Proctor" = "Barry Cornwall, poet"; "Henry Rogers" = "R. E. H. Greyson"; "(Sanche) de Gramont" = "Ted Morgan", and so on. Several of these are "imperfect anagrams", letters having been left out in some cases for the sake of easy pronunciation.

For his book Mu Revealed, a spoof on the works of James Churchward, occult writer Raymond Buckland used the pseudonym "Tony Earll", an anagram for "Not Really".

"Telliamed", a simple reversal, is the title of a well-known work by "De Maillet". One of the most remarkable pseudonyms of this class is the name "Voltaire", which the celebrated philosopher assumed instead of his family name, François Marie Arouet, and which is now generally allowed to be an anagram of "Arouet, l[e] j[eune]" (U=V, J=I) that is, "Arouet the younger". Anagramming may also be used to good effect in farce or parody. A writer might take an unpleasant person s/he knows, base a character in a book on them, and then transpose the letters in the source's name.

Summary anagrams

Summary anagrams are anagrams of quoted passages from literature that convey the essence of the work itself. This style is a favorite genre of anagrammatists such as Simon Woodard. Below is an example of one of Woodard's polished summary anagrams, of the first lines of a popular translation of Homer's Odyssey:

"Sing to me of the man, Muse, the man of twists and turns, driven time and again off course, once he had plundered the hallowed heights of Troy." – Homer's Odyssey

Summary anagram:

Hurrying home to his wife, Odysseus shoved off, fled the sea god's wrath, endured many moments of mistreatment, then landed on southern Ithaca... a long epic!

Another summary anagram by the same author anagrams the first line of Herman Melville's Moby Dick into an expansion of the novel's plot:

"Call me Ishmael. Some years ago—never mind how long precisely—having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on the shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world."

Summary anagram:

To relocate on a whaling ship for months did not seem deadly or nightmarish to me. Then, the wily nut Ahab (our captain with one leg) imperilled our entire voyage, attempting carelessly to lure a monstrous, lone, silvery whale.

Methods of construction

Before the Computer Age, anagrams were constructed using a pen and paper or lettered tiles, by playing with letter combinations and experimenting with variations. (Some individuals with prodigious talent have also been known to ‘see’ anagrams in words, unaided by tools.) Anagram dictionaries could also be used.

Computer programs, known as "anagram servers", "anagram solvers" or "anagrammers", offer a new and potentially much faster route to creating anagrams. A large number of these programs are available on the Internet, and they are often used to find solutions for crosswords, Scrabble, Boggle and other word games. When the anagrammatist enters a word or phrase the program or server carries out an exhaustive search of a database of words to produce a list containing every possible combination of words or phrases from the input word or phrase. Some programs such as Lexpert (used for Scrabble) only allow one-word answers. Many anagram servers can control the search results, by excluding or including certain words, limiting the number or length of words in each anagram, or limiting the number of results. Anagram solvers are often banned from online anagram games, such as Yahoo! Literati, where they can be used for an unfair advantage, in some cases allowing a player to never miss a single word.

The disadvantage of computer anagram solvers, especially when applied to multi-word anagrams, is that they usually have no understanding of the meaning of the words they are manipulating. They are therefore usually poor at filtering out meaningful or appropriate anagrams from large numbers of nonsensical word combinations.

Anagram solvers do not have to use English. Any language can be used, particularly those which use the Roman alphabet. Anagrammers can even find solutions in multiple languages at the same time. Anagrammers may have other related functions, such as fitting the letters into a certain sequence. If while doing a crossword the reader has a seven-letter word in the form Z?R??N? (the question marks each represent a blank square) then an anagram solver can find all the words that fit this pattern, for example zeroing and zircons.

When sharing their newly discovered anagrams with other enthusiasts, some anagrammatists indicate the method they used. Anagrams constructed without aid of a computer are noted as having been done ‘manually’ or ‘by hand’; those made by utilizing a computer may be noted ‘by machine’ or ‘by computer’, or may indicate the name of the computer program (using ‘Anagram Genius’).

There are also a few "natural" instances: English words unconsciously created by switching letters around. The French chaise longue ("long chair") became the American "chaise lounge" by metathesis (transposition of letters and/or sounds). It has also been speculated that the English "curd" comes from the Latin crudus ("raw").

Anagrams in psychology

Psychologists today use anagram-oriented tests, often called "anagram solution tasks", to assess the implicit memory of young adults and adults alike.

Games and puzzles

Anagrams are in themselves a recreational activity, but they also make up part of many other games, puzzles and game shows.

  • Cryptic crossword puzzles frequently use anagrammatic clues, usually indicating that they are anagrams by the inclusion of a descriptive term like "confused" or "in disarray". An example would be Businessman burst into tears (9 letters). The solution, stationer, is an anagram of into tears, the letters of which have burst out of their original arrangement to form the name of a type of businessman.
  • In Scrabble, the players must make words by placing lettered tiles on a grid to score points in an effort to have scored more points than the opponent at the end of the game. A version of Scrabble called Clabbers, the name itself being an anagram of Scrabble, allows for tiles to be placed in any order on the board as long as they anagram to a valid word.
  • In Boggle, players make words from a grid of sixteen random letters by joining adjacent cubes to make valid words.
  • On the British game show Countdown, contestants are given 30 seconds to make the longest word from nine random letters. One point is awarded per letter of the word, or 18 points (double) for using all nine letters. An example of a nine-letter word: s, a, a, p, i, o, n, j, c, forms "Japonicas."
  • On the British game show BrainTeaser, contestants are shown a word broken into randomly arranged segments and must announce the whole word. At the end of the game there is a "Pyramid" which starts with a three-letter word. A letter appears in the line below to which the player must add the existing letters to find a solution. The pattern continues until the player reaches the final eight-letter anagram. The player wins the game by solving all the anagrams within the allotted time.
  • The Jumble is a puzzle found in many newspapers in the United States requiring the unscrambling of letters to find the solution.
  • Anagrammatic is a game on Miniclip where anagrams are formed.

Anagrammy Awards

Anagrammy, a non-commercial web site run by anagram aficionados, hosts a monthly competition for various categories of original anagrams, including people's names, current events, long anagrams, and rude anagrams. Participants are free to post their original anagrams throughout the month on the Anagrammy forum, and nominate those deemed worthy for an Anagrammy award. Voting is usually held during the first week of each month. An annual Grand Anagrammy voting contest is also hosted for all winning anagrams. The web site also includes practical information on anagramming techniques, and a database of famous and winning anagrams.

Notable anagrams

  • In 1996, anagrammatist Cory Calhoun discovered that the first 3 lines of the "To Be Or Not To Be" soliloquy from Hamlet ("To be or not to be, that is the question; whether tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune") anagrammed into the phrase "In one of the Bard's best thought-of tragedies, our insistent hero, Hamlet, queries on two fronts about how life turns rotten."
  • In 1975, British naturalist Sir Peter Scott coined the scientific term "Nessiteras rhombopteryx" (Greek for "The monster {or wonder} of Ness with the diamond shaped fin") for the apocryphal Loch Ness Monster. Shortly afterwards, several London newspapers pointed out that "Nessiteras rhombopteryx" anagrams into "Monster hoax by Sir Peter S". However, Robert Rines countered with the fact that they can also be arranged into "Yes both pix are monsters, R."
  • The related words "parental", "prenatal", and "paternal" are anagrams of one another.
  • In the Simpsons episode Homer's Night Out, while the family was at a restaurant, Bart notices a sign reading "Cod Platter" and rearranges the letters to spell "Cold Pet Rat" as an anagram.
  • In Amanda Filipacchi's novel Vapor, the protagonist's name is Anna Graham, and because of this, the scientist who kidnaps her is constantly leaving her anagrams that she must figure out, but they are in the form of objects. For example, when he leaves her a ruby, she has to understand he's actually saying "bury". When he leaves her rubies, he means "bruise", when he leaves her garnets, he means "strange", etc. The book ends with him leaving her a white rose, and she is supposed to figure out the one-word anagram these nine letters make. She does figure it out, but the author leaves readers to solve the anagram on their own.
  • In a Toyota Camry commercial, the word "CAMRY" is spelled, and then it anagrams into "MY CAR".
  • Teachers often use the fact that "listen" is an anagram of "silent" when encouraging their students to listen quietly.
  • "Walker Texas Ranger" is an anagram of "Karate Wrangler Sex"; this is one of the Chuck Norris Facts.
  • In Kingdom Hearts II, name of each member of Organization XIII is an anagram of each member's original name plus letter X.
  • In Kingdom Hearts II, Sora's nobody, Roxas, is an anagram minus the X.
  • Homer Hickam, Jr.'s book Rocket Boys was adapted into the 1999 film October Sky. Both titles are anagrams of each other.
  • "Alan Smithee", a pseudonym commonly used by Hollywood film directors, anagrams into "The Alias Men".
  • The London Underground anagram map, a parody map of the London Underground with the station and line names replaced with anagrams. It was circulated on the web in February 2006.
  • Harry Potter villain Lord Voldemort derived the title from his given name: Tom Marvolo Riddle = I am Lord Voldemort.
  • A more humorous anagram from the Harry Potter series is derived from Albus Dumbledore's name: "Male bods rule, bud!" making fun of Dumbledore's homosexuality.
  • In the TV show House, M.D., Dr. Gregory House notes that a good anagram of his name would be "Huge Ego Sorry".
  • The tapes for the revival of BBC show Doctor Who were labeled with the anagram Torchwood, which later went on to be used as the name for a spin-off show.
  • Anagrams were used as song names during the Muse Cryptography tour. These included Swiss Rhapsody (Password is shy), Timescale Keeper (Keep E-mail secret) and Unpacked Residents (Send Naked Pictures).
  • In the opening sequence of the BBC sitcom Fawlty Towers, the hotel sign is seen to have changed from "Fawlty Towers" to an anagram or partial anagram thereof. A variety of different "anagrams" were featured, but only one – the risqué "Flowery Twats" – actually used all the letters. See List of Fawlty Towers episodes for a full list.
  • Jim Morrison came up with an anagram of his name in the Doors song L.A. Woman, calling himself "Mr. Mojo Risin'".
  • Enid Coleslaw, the protagonist of graphic novel (and later movie) Ghost World, is an anagram for the book's author, Daniel Clowes.
  • In Hollyoaks the words "End Evil Care" is an anagram of the villainess character Clare Devine.
  • An anagram of Doctor Sigmund Freud is "Deductions from drug", an amusing coincidence considering Freud's known use of cocaine and its possible influence on his theories.
  • In Captain Underpants, the two children always rearrange the billboard sign letters making outrageous anagrams.
  • In Mother 3, Lucas's and Claus's names are anagrams of each other.
  • Anagrams feature prominently in the novel The Da Vinci Code as clues in the Louvre.

See also

References

External links

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