It happens if your name is Hannah, or Bob, or Otto.
It also happens if you’re riding in a race car. Or if you’ve had a lovely moment with your mother, and find yourself saying, gee, Ma is as selfless as I am. Or if you stumble across a flying saucer, and decide to give the UFO tofu.
It’s also happening this whole week — you just didn’t know it.
What’s happening right now, this day, is a palindrome: A word,
phrase or — in this case — a sequence of numbers that reads the same
backwards or forwards.
As for Tuesday, it’s 5/12/15. Write it backward, and it’s still 5/12/15. Every day this week follows the same pattern, as recently noted online by Chicago-based linguist Arika Okrent.
The desire to play around with palindromes is coupled with the
sentiment that language is a natural expression “coming from the soul,”
notes Jason Boyd, an assistant professor in Ryerson University’s English
“And then things like this make us see how curious and how
constructed language — and playing with language — can be,” he added. “I
think that’s part of the fascination.”
There are some well-known palindromes in the English language: “A
man, a plan, a canal: Panama” comes to mind — and some intriguing ones
in the mathematics world as well.
for instance, is a palindromic prime number with the so-called number
of the devil hidden in the middle: 1000000000000066600000000000001. (A
prime number, for those who’ve forgotten high school math, is a natural
number greater than 1 that can only be divided — without a remainder —
by itself and 1.)
Some people have even succeeded in writing entire books as one giant
palindrome, including two fellows working alongside a computer program
to create 2002: A Palindrome Story, a narrative palindrome exactly 2002 words in length, first published online on Feb. 20, 2002 — or, rather, 20/02/2002.
Is your brain hurting yet? If so, just take some lonely Tylenol.
A week of palindromes