a weblog of wordplay by Eric Harshbarger
para-palindromesTwo of my favorite words are FOOLPROOF and BATHTUB.
Recently, while trying to figure out what made these two words so liked by myself, I thought of the notion of a 'para-palindrome'.
One of the most durable ideas in logology is that of a 'palindrome'; a word which reads the same way forward as it does backward (examples: LEVEL, ROTATOR, EVE).
I've termed FOOLPROOF and BATHTUB para-palindromes because they are almost palindromes... off by one letter:
I think it is this 'near perfection' in letter patterns that has always attracted me to these two words.
Para-palindromes are obviously much more common than true palindromes, but they are still fun to hunt for. After thinking about the words above, I decided to try to find more... say one for each letter of the alphabet.
I added a few more constraints to the search. Firstly, the initial and final letters of the para-palindromes have to match (and this is how I alphabetized them). This first/last letter matching is not necessary in all para-palindromes. For example, the word KNITTING is a para-palindrome... but that didn't seem quite right as far as categorizing it as a K-para-palindrome in this hunt. So, the first and last letters had to be identical here.
Secondly, I tried to find the longest examples possible for each letter. Any three-letter word is automatically a para-palindrome, and any four- or even five-letter word whose first and last letters match are also automatically para-palindromes. So, I really looked for words that were at least six letters in length; preferrably more.
For some of the trickier letters (those usual culprits: J, Q, Z, X, V, etc), I had to ignore those above restrictions, but here is my list so far (most words can be found at www.dictionary.com):
AlABAmA BaTHTuB CaTALATiC DETecTED EVIncIVE FOOlPrOOF GNaWiNG HAlAkAH IaMbI J KAlpAK LACoNiCAL MARjoRAM NOnAgON OuTdO PEEsEwEEP [MW3] Q REdEEmER ScARAbS THoGuHT UrUbU V WOoDrOW XeRoX YaWnY ZThis list is obviously far from complete, and could use many improvements. This was generated by hand after about an hour of casual thinking. I encourage readers to submit better finds. Eventually I will write a quick program to crunch a long wordlist to get some definitive answers (maybe shoot for one example for every pair of letter differences; 26 * 25 = 650 possibilities).
[9 May 2007]
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