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  LOGOLOG
a weblog of wordplay by Eric Harshbarger

para-palindromes

Two 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:

FOOlPrOOF
BaTHTuB

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
Z
This 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).

-- Eric

[9 May 2007]
   
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Comments about this article:
CITrIC

and by the same token

CrITIC

Posted by: Anonymous


and at a stretch

iNk

although

i must confess i resorted to the dictionary after coming up with that

and frankly - i think anyone would be hard pressed to come up with anything else for i

but i hope someone does

Posted by: thanks for the workout (citriccritic also)


CritiC, is NOT a valid para-palindrome example; CItrIC is, though. The former is basically a palindrome with a letter inserted, but it has two differences between the first and last half...

Posted by: Eric Harshbarger


Interesting. Seems my last name is a para-palindrome.

Posted by: Simon Lengyel


 
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