Anagram

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An anagram (Greek ana- = "back" or "again", and graphein = "to write") is a type of word play, the result of rearranging the letters of a word or phrase to produce other words, using all the original letters exactly once. Anagrams are often expressed in the form of an equation, with the equals symbol (=) separating the original subject and the resulting anagram. ‘Earth = heart’ is an example of a simple anagram expressed so. In a more advanced, sophisticated form of anagramming, the aim is to ‘discover’ a result that possesses linguistic meaning which comments on the original subject in a humorous or ironic way; e.g., Roll in the hay = Thrill a honey (discovered by Tony Crafter). When the subject and the resulting anagram form a complete sentence, a tilde (~) is used instead of an equal sign; e.g., Semolina ~ is no meal.

History

The construction of anagrams is an amusement of great antiquity. Jews from the Temple of Rehovot are often credited with the invention of anagrams, probably because later Hebrew writers, particularly Kabbalists, were fond of it, asserting that "secret mysteries are woven in the numbers of letters". Anagrams were known to the Greeks and also to the Romans, although the known Latin examples of words of more than one syllable are nearly all imperfect.

They were popular throughout Europe during the Middle Ages.

Indeed, the right to lampoon royalty and politicians via anagram was enshrined in English law in 1215, when King John, albeit under some duress, signed the Magna Carta (Magna Carta = Anagram Act) at Runnymede, in Surrey, and later, particularly in France, where there was appointed "Anagrammatist to the King" by Louis XIII. 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" (Bright 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 "Claimes Arthur's seat". "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".

Pseudonyms

The pseudonyms adopted by authors are often transposed forms, more or less exact, of their names; thus "Calvinus" becomes "Alcuinus" (V = U); "Francois Rabelais" = "Alcofribas Nasier"; "Edward Gorey" = "Ogdred Weary"; "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. It is to be noted that several of these are "imperfect anagrams", letters having been left out in some cases for the sake of easy pronunciation.

"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]", that is, "Arouet the younger". Anagramming may also be used to good effect in farce or parody. A writer might take an unpleasant person he knows, base a character in a book on him, and then transpose the letters in the source's name. For example, controversial Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon might be satirized as, say, local greengrocer "Leon A. Shirra"—a rather inventive way to avoid a libel lawsuit.

Anagrams have also shown up in rock music. The Doors' lead singer Jim Morrison invoked his name as "Mr. Mojo Risin'" on the song "L.A. Woman", the band Sad Café released an album called Facades, Blur singer Damon Albarnuses the name Dan Abnormal for the title of a song on The Great Escape and all of the band adopt anagramed pseudonyms for the music video of M.O.R., the new wave band Missing Persons recorded an album called Spring Session M, and the Guns'n'Roses singer Axl Rose's stage name is an anagram of "oral sex".

Astronomy

Perhaps the only practical use to which anagrams have been turned is to be found in the transpositions in which some of the astronomers of the 17th century embodied their discoveries with the design apparently 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: This immature (feminine) one has already been read in vain by me—oy (with a subject-verb number agreement error)), that is, "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.

There are also a few "natural" anagrams, 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). This is an example of folk etymology. It has also been speculated that the English "curd" comes from the Latin crudus ("raw").

Methods

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.)

Computers have enabled a new method of creating anagrams, the anagram server. An anagram server utilizes an exhaustive database of words. The anagrammist (one who creates anagrams) enters a word or phrase into the server’s search engine, and the server produces a list containing every possible combination of words or phrases from the input word or phrase. Anagram servers use advanced features to 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.

When sharing their newly discovered anagrams with other enthusiasts, some anagrammists 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’).

Anagram servers are available on the Internet. Some examples are

There is also software to download and run locally, such as

Crosswords

Cryptic crossword puzzles frequently use anagrammatic clues, usually indicating that they are anagrams by the inclusion of a word like "confused" or "in disarray". An example would be Businessman bursts 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.

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)!

See also

Sample anagrams

Each of the anagrams below is, depending on one's point of view, appropriate or contrary in meaning to that of the word or phrase of which it is an anagram.

Political

Celebrities and other persons

  • Madonna Louise Ciccone = One cool dance musician (also: occasional nude income)
  • Armistead Maupin~Is a Man I Dreamt Up.
  • Mena Suvari = A mean virus
  • Jim Morrison ~ Mr. Mojo Risin'

Definitional

Situational

Controversial

  • Evangelist = Evil's agent.
  • United States of America = Dine out, taste a Mac, fries.
  • Australia = A trial USA
  • McDonalds Restaurants = Uncle Sam's standard rot.
  • Slot machines = Cash lost in 'em.
  • Mother-in-law = Woman Hitler
  • Father-in-law = Fatal whiner
  • Adolf Hitler = Heil old fart
  • T. S. Eliot = litotes = toilets
  • Soylent Green = Stolen energy
  • Christian shepherd = His thrashed prince.
  • Britney Spears = Presbyterians.
  • Mission Accomplished = C'mon, I lied. So scampish!
  • Saddam Hussein = UN's said he's mad = He diss damn USA
  • Osama bin Laden = A damn alien S.O.B.
  • Bill Gates ~ begat ills
  • Everybody Loves Raymond = Loved by everyday morons.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer = Pithy female braves fury. (discovered by Rick Rothstein)
  • I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all = I, George W. Bush, an evil Republican fascist, used God to inflict pain on the world, end life, facilitate death, create militant jihad rebels, and to let youths die for nothing.
  • Pledge of Allegiance: I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. = Epicede to pall Indigence: I salute the fair Dollar, of the free capitalist economy, and the biotic need, which it funds, a big gold ingot, glittering, with a job, fuel, assets, land and revenue for all. (discovered by Paul Pan)

Literary

  • "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." = "In one of the Bard's best-thought-of tragedies, our insistent hero, Hamlet, queries on two fronts about how life turns rotten." (discovered by Cory Calhoun)
  • Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott = A novel by a Scottish writer
  • Rocket Boys = October Sky

External links

de:Anagramm eo:Anagramo fr:Anagramme he:אנגרמה ia:Anagramma io:Anagramo it:Anagramma lb:Anagramm hu:Anagramma nl:Anagram ja:アナグラム no:Anagram pl:Anagram ru:Анаграмма sl:Anagram sv:Anagram