Having fun with anagrams

Published 2:58 pm Tuesday, December 15, 2020

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One of my earliest school holiday memories comes from just before the Christmas holidays. I was in, I think, the fourth grade, and we were winding down for the holidays. It had to be the last day before Christmas vacation began. Finals were over, and our teacher had to find something to do to occupy our time. I still remember what she found.

She passed out a sheet of paper to each of us. All it had on it were what appeared to be random words. Then genius butted in: she told us to take those words and see how many words we could turn them into. I was intrigued. Then I was entranced. I worked on them the entire class. She never gave anything like that to us again, but I had a lot of fun.

My love for words and wordplay never relented.

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I later learned that there was a name for when words were re-formed into new words–anagram. And once I started seeing them, my mind learned to regularly take words and rearrange them.

That happened almost exactly this time of year more years ago than I care to mention. So, in fond memory of my burgeoning love of language, let’s celebrate the fun that language can give us.

Let’s have some fun rearranging words. Did you know that the anagram of golf is, appropriately enough, flogs. Some anagrams are ironic. Who would ever think of a funeral being real fun? Some of them are accurate: dormitory becomes dirty room. But the eyes, well, they see.

Names are some of the best. Remember Clint Eastwood and all of those iconic cowboy roles he had? Rearrange his name to find old West action. Ronald Reagan was a two-term president whose name becomes a darn long era. Remember the persistent rumors that Elvis Presley is still alive? Maybe that’s because when you rearrange Elvis you get lives. Remember Bart Simpson of The Simpsons? Could anything be more appropriate than the anagram of Bart being brat? If you were alive in the 1980s you couldn’t turn on the radio without hearing a tune by Madonna, whose full name, Madonna Louise Ciccione, becomes one cool dance musician.

Remember when George Bush and Al Gore ran for president? They came to a dead heat, and whoever won Florida was going to become our president, hanging chads and all. Maybe we should have known that they’d be each other’s nemesis because, after all, George Bush rearranges as he bugs Gore.

Once you start looking, you find these things everywhere, even among historical figures. Leonardo Da Vinci becomes O draconian devil, and the Mona Lisa becomes Oh, lame saint.

The nation of Israel my hold the record for the most anagrams of a country. It becomes serial, sailer, resail, ariels, and serail (a Muslim term). More: Peru becomes pure; Spain becomes pains; Niger becomes reigns. Serbia becomes rabies.

I find all of this to be fascinating fun. Anagrams gave me a whole new way to look at words. Hey, there was one, words is an anagram for sword.

Once you get started, you can’t stop.

Now go, look, and you’ll find you’ve won some anagrams of your own.

And while you are at it, if you’ll look carefully at that last sentence, you’ll find two other anagrams of the first word.

The fun never stops.