English is Weird

Was It a Car or a Cat I Saw?

by Lauren Molin

Do geese see God?

I for one think this is an excellent question that, regrettably, I will never truly know the answer to. Mostly because there is no chance I am getting within 20 steps of a goose to find out.

But, besides the theological question, did you notice something interesting about the above phrase? The sentence written backward is the exact same sentence.

A word, number, sentence, or verse read the same both forward and backward is known as a palindrome. This can range from the word ‘nun’ , the number 4723274, to sentences such as ‘A Man, A Plan, A Canal-Panama!’. Even the symbols (:”:( are a palindrome. Palindromes are found everywhere and are even in names like Bob and Anna.

What is believed to be the first palindrome was found in Herculaneum; “sator arepo tenet opera rotas”. Translated, this means “The sower Arepo holds the wheels with effort.” The longest palindromic English word is ‘tattarrattat’, a knock at the door, coined by James Joyce in his work Ulysses.

Some popular palindromes are

  • Was it a rat I saw?
  • Never odd or even
  • Doc, Note: I Dissent. A Fast Never Prevents A Fatness. I Diet On Cod
  • Racecar
  • Taco cat
  • Madam In Eden, I’m Adam

The word Aibohphobia is the fear of palindromes. The word itself is a palindrome and was supposedly coined in 1991. According to medical professionals, aibohphobia isn’t a real psychiatric diagnosis, just a phobia created to be funny.

While the phobia of palindromes is a palindrome, it can be a little sad to realize that the word itself isn’t a palindrome. It comes from Greek palin dromo, or  “running back again”.

But all is not lost!

Because semordnilap IS a word.

Semordnilap is a word that, when spelled backwards, creates another word! The word itself is, happily, an example of itself. The words ‘stressed’ and ‘desserts’ are semordnilaps of each other, and so are the words ‘devil’/‘lived’, and ‘deliver’/‘reviled’.

Do you have a favorite palindrome or semordnilap? Let us know below!


Works Cited


Danelek, Jeff. “Top 10 Famous Palindromes.” Toptenz.net, Toptenz.net, 11 July 2017, http://www.toptenz.net/top-10-famous-palindromes.php.
“What May Be the Longest Single Palindromic Word?” Dictionary.com, Dictionary.com, http://www.dictionary.com/e/palindromic-word/.
YourDictionary. “Palindrome Examples.” YourDictionary, 30 Mar. 2017, examples.yourdictionary.com/palindrome-examples.html.

One thought on “Was It a Car or a Cat I Saw?

  1. Pingback: October Volume II | Good Morning Aomori

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s