9.13.2005

Flip It Real Good

In "Lisa's Rival", Lisa meets the new girl, who is younger and smarter than she. It's a beautiful look at the fun and frustrating sport of Anagramming.

Taylor: Hi, Lisa, I'm Alison's father, Professor Taylor. I've heard
great things about you.

Lisa: Oh, really? I --
Taylor: Oh, don't be modest. I'm glad we have someone who can join us
in our anagram game.

Alison: We take proper names and rearrange the letters to form a
description of that person.

Taylor: Like, er...oh, I don't know, uh...Alec Guinness.
Alison: [thinks] Genuine class.
Taylor: Ho ho, very good. All right, Lisa, um...Jeremy Irons.
Lisa: [looks with consternation] Jeremy's...iron.
Taylor: Mm hmm, well that's...very good...for a first try. You know
what? I have a ball. [pulls one from his pocket] Perhaps you'd
like to bounce it?


Anagrams go way the heck back. Like, B.C. back. Used to be, if you were clever with wordplay, you could be made a part of the King's Court. Kind of like the Anagrammatist Laureate. What a sweet job, sit around all day rearranging letters. Then, they invented television and we all stopped thinking. That's a shortened history, but the point is people don't delight in wordplay as much as they used to.

Which is too dang bad, because a) it's a brainstretch, which we all can use a little of and b) it makes me laugh.

Now, technically, an anagram is simply the letters of a word or phrase rearranged to create a different word or phrase. But the fun part is when you can make the rearrangement makes sense, and make it a particularly insightful reflection of the original word or phrase. This is the fine craft, and mystics, Kabbalists, and Will Shortz have long looked to anagrams for meaning and portent.

For instance, I can anagram Pamela Anderson into "Madonna's a leper", but it doesn't really make much sense. From Alyssa Milano, I can get "I am only a lass", which makes sense enough, but isn't terribly funny or insightful. Woody Allen to "A lewd loony" or "Wooed all NY", now that's good stuff. (All of these examples came from anagramgenius)

The internet (small "i", any objections?) has made anagrams rather fun again. Plug any word or phrase into an anagram server and get back thousands of options. Many make no sense, but it gives you somewhere to start.

So, you got one? Should it be a contest? Myself, I'd like to see what anagrams people could find of "staff meeting", "professional development", or "standardized testing". But that's just me. Share Your Ideas! Which may, of course, Assure Hairy Ode!

3 comments:

Eric "Babe" Morse said...

I tried one of my favorite oxymorons:

Short staff meeting

I got:

Short time, fang fest.

That describes some staff meetings I've attended. It also gave up:

Neff's tot s*** a germ.

So.

TheLoof said...

When it comes to anagrams, I'm pretty much brain dead. However, what I do know is that anagrams seem to be very popular in the Harry Potter fandom. Due to the fact that, in the 2nd book, "Tom Marvolo Riddle" could be switched to "I am Lord Voldemort", the entire fandom seems to believe every character's name is an anagram. The most popular, at least the one I do know of from memory, is that "Severus Snape" is an anagram for "Persues Evans" which is supposedly a "mis-spelling" to meaning that he liked Harry's mother once. Far-fetched, but the only place I do hear much of anagrams is in the Harry Potter universe.

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