Tadeusz Morawski*, Jarosław Szewiński
Faculty of Electronics and Information Technology
Warsaw University of Technology
Palindromes, often also called mirror sentences, are sentences, words, poems or longer texts, which can be read either in the normal or reverse direction (the letters layout is symmetric). The name “palindrome”, was taken from Greek language, where “palin” means “to return”, “to go back on your own trace”, and “dromos” mean the way. This name was caught on in many European languages (also in Russian), the exception is Latin where the palindrome is called “versus recurrentes”. The palindrome has a long history, the legend says, that the first words spoken by a human were a palindrome. Adam introduced himself to Eve saying: “Madam, I’m Adam”. Some people think that Adam was more talkative, and said: “Madam in Eden, I’m Adam”.
But looking more seriously, palindromes were already known in ancient ages, probably the first man who was writing palindromes was Sotades of Maronea (275 BC). Ancient Greeks and Romans already had their favorite palindromes, one known until today is:
In girum imus nocte et consumimur igni
It means: “We are entering the circle in the darkness, and we are consumed by the fire”. More information about the history of palindromes can be found in .
How important were palindromes in history, may prove the transcription on the grave of the architect of the Panama Canal: “A man, a plan, a Canal Panama”. Although this sentence is far from ideal, it was used in a serious case – because it is a palindrome. It can also be noticed that in the English language there are three articles: “the”, “a” and “an”. Because the difficulty of using each of them in palindromes is not equal (especially it is difficult to use reversed “the”), a common technique used in English palindromes is to replace article “the” with “a”, even if it violates the grammar rules. Usually palindromes are treated as word play, but they can be also used in more serious situations, for example the palindrome “No X in Nixon” was used for political purposes.
Palindromes can also be found in nature, for example in biology, palindrome sequences are required for recombination of the DNA molecules. Also in mathematics, there is a theorem (and proof) that all numerical palindromes with an even number of digits are divisible by 11. The proof can be found in .
2. Palindromes of different nations
Below palindromes  in many different languages are listed, the original spelling is used with short English translations (only to expose the meaning). The languages that are not based on the Latin alphabet were omitted in the examples (because of technical issues), but palindromes exist in these languages as well. It is even not so difficult to find one in such a language - for example, when in a sequence of three hieroglyphs, the first and the third are the same.
Examples of palindromes:
3. Polish Palindromes
At this point, discussed palindromes will enclose in the XX/XXI century. Polish palindromes where collected and written already before the II World War by Julian Tuwim. In 1950 he published a book . Later, books with new palindromes were published by Stanisław Baranczak in 1995 , and Józef Godzic in 1996 .
There are also many palindromes without known authorship. Because of the size of this publication, attention will be focused on short palindromes - the same treatment can be found in J. Bralczyk’s book . He says that palindromes usually have no sense, because of the difficulty in composing them, also because people should not expect much from them.
That is why he prefers shorter palindromes – there is bigger chance that they are more reasonable .
Below the most popular polish palindromes (with translation) are listed:
Łoi nas anioł - The Angel is beating us
Wół utył i ma miły tułów - A stag has gain weight and has a nice thorax
Jadzi w gębę gwizdaj - Whistle into Jadzia’s face
Palindromes from Tuwim’s book :
Kobyła ma mały bok - A mare has a small side
Popija rum As, Samuraj i Pop - Ace, Samurai and Pope are drinking rum
Muzo, raz daj jad za rozum - Muse, at least once give the poison in return for the mind
Palindromes from Barańczak’s book :
I zduna zaraz cna japa janczara znudzi - Potter will be bored by the janissary’s
Iwono, ty rabuj okop spokoju barytonowi - Yvonne, rob the trench of peace from
Na wiecu: Jim, jedz bób, zdejmij onuce, Iwan - On the rally: Eat beans Jim, and You
Ivan take off your socks
Jak łysy łkaj - Cry like a baldie
Może jutro ta dama da tortu jeżom - Maybe tomorrow this lady will give cake to the
A to kanapa pana kota - This is Mr. cat’s couch
4. The newest polish palindromes
In 2005, T. Morawski published a book , which was written only using palindromes, like the previous one . To realize what is the scale of both writings – each of them contains thousand of palindromes, and there are also about 80 palindrome-poems and two longest Polish palindromes in . The longer one has over 10000 letters, and the shorter one has over 3000 letters (it can be found at http://www.palindromy.pl/). In 2006, T. Morawski wrote another book , with 1500 palindromes, divided into 280 topical groups. Titles of both books are of course palindromes. Below some examples from these books are listed:
Może jeż łże jeżom? - Maybe the hedgehog lies to other hedgehogs?
Żartem dano nadmetraż - It was a joke, that they gave more space
I wabi wół ów i bawi - Stag attracts and entertains
Akta generała ma mała renegatka - General’s acts are held by a small female
Rabi zna Zair, a Maria Zanzibar - Rabi knows Zaire, and Maria knows Zanzibar
Co mi dał duch – cud, ład i moc - What did the spirit give me? – miracle, order
A mi kret ‘Eter’ kima - Mole named ‘Ether’ is sleeping (Ether is also a
Ej, i po pracy Car popije - After work, even Tsar will drink
I Car komedia i demokraci - Both Tsar and the democrats are comedy
Zula łowi, a Noe leje Leona i woła - luz - Zula is catching, Noe is beating Leon and
Tuli fotoradar – o, to filut - He is cuddling a photo radar – he is a joker
Zaradny dynda raz - The resourceful hangs only once
Ilu tuli filut Uli? - How many are cuddled by Ula’s joker?
Łapał za Tokaj, a kota złapał - He was catching Tokay wine, but he caught a cat
A guru w ONZ znowu ruga - A principle in the UN is calling down again
Pętaka pętaj, a tępaka tęp - Bind the kid and fight the dimwit
Ej, Ula – Bąk Izydor świeże jada jeże i w środy z Iką baluje – Hey Ula, Bumblebee Izydor eats fresh hedgehogs and parties with Ika on Wednesdays.
Finally, there are also two short poems (so far there were no rhymes in Polish palindromes):
utul Asa –
The meaning is following: „You should log and lap the Ace, and salute at the naked man”
A klan sarka
na kram Jarka
a kraj Marka
The meaning is following: „Every one is grumbling about something”
Palindromes are a mystery for the readers and a challenge for writers. Is it only empty entertainment, or perhaps literature. We assume that palindromes are on the periphery of literature, not in the center, but always literature.
 Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, Palindrome – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palindrome
 Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, Palindromic Phrases – http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Transwiki:Palindromic_phrases
 Julian Tuwim – “Pegaz dęba” (Pegasus rears up), 1950
 Stanisław Barańczak – “Pegaz zdębiał” (Pegasus rore up), 1996
 Józef Godzic – “Echozdania czyli palindromy”(Echo-sentences or the palindromes),1996
 Jerzy Bralczyk – “Leksykon zdań polskich” (Lexicon of Polish sentences), 2004
 Tadeusz Morawski – “Gór, ech chce róg” (Horn needs the mountain echoes), 2005
 Tadeusz Morawski – “Zagwiżdż i w gaz” (Whistle, and get a move on), 2006
 Dockweiler, C.J. – Palindromes and the „Law of 11”, Arithmetic Teacher, 32(5), 1985
* Tadeusz Morawski, professor, author of many books and scripts about microwave techniques and theory of electromagnetic field. Since 2005, he is the most active Polish palindrome author. He has published two books [7,8] and also has his own web page: http://www.palindromy.pl/. He says: “I have always been doing useful things. But I always wanted to do something beautiful, creative, and … useless. Can anyone say that palindromes are useful in any way?”