A quick look at Palindromes, Semordnilaps and ambigrams.
Yo banana boy, pretty weird headline, huh? Well, that's because it's entirely made up palindromes — words and phrases that read the same forwards or backwards. Palindromes pop up everywhere — like the start of this article for instance. In fact, you probably learnt a few from your Mum, Dad, Nan or Pop (all palindromes incidentally) or you might even be lucky enough to have a palindrome name like Hannah, Elle, Anna, Otto, Eve or Ava. South Australia's most famous Palindrome is, of course, Glenelg where you might sneak a peep at a boob, kayak, or a race car.
So palindromes are sorted but do you know what a semordnilap is? The astute among you will have immediately guessed that it has something to do with palindrome because that what it spells backwards. And you'd right except that a semordnilap is a word that spells another word when viewed backwards. The most delicious example of this is stressed. Spelt backwards it's dessert — surely an antidote for the former?
And finally, ambigrams.
An ambigram (ambiguous anagram) is different inasmuch that it’s a graphic representation of a word or words that can read the same or as a completely word when rotated, or flipped horizontally/vertically, or even reflected.
One of the most prolific ambigramists is John Langdon a Typography professor at Drexel University in Philadelphia who leapt into popularity after author Dan Brown features his work in his book Angels & Demons. Although internationally recognised, John is just one of a number of clever artists turning their hand to ambigram logos and lettering. Below is just a few samples of John’s work and typical of how an ambigram works. To see more of John's ambigrams, visit his website.
For now though, just grab hold of your computer and turn it upside down. Voila. You look like a fool but look — the designs are the same!
Author Dan Brown got to know ambigram designer John Langdon after he designed a CD cover for an early album titled Angels & Demons. The CD was a stinker and Dan brown went on to become a worldwide sensation with The Da Vinci Code amongst other literary successes. But Brown was so taken by Langdon's ambigram works that he asked him to design symbols and logos for his books and even named his chief protagonist, Robert Langdon, after the acclaimed typography professor.
This is another in a series of blogs on letterforms, typography and writing glossary.
About the author
Steve Williss at WriteMind was a typographer and art director long before he turned his hand to writing for a living. He still takes an active interest in letterforms and typography, particularly typographic design.