by Will Shortz
Word Ways, February 1997


Michael Donner's fine recent book on palindromes, I Love Me, Vol. I, got me thinking about word-unit palindromes and the paucity of examples cited in the standard collections. Besides the classic "All for one and one for all," the cry of the Three Musketeers, the following specimens are among the few that are generally cited in illustrating the genre:

King, are you glad you are king?

So patient a doctor to doctor a patient so!

Girl, bathing on Bikini, eyeing boy, finds boy eyeing bikini on bathing-girl.

You can cage a swallow, can't you, but you can't swallow a cage, can you?

To reverse this sad situation, I recently ran a creative competition for word palindromes in my weekly puzzle segment on NPR's Weekend Edition Sunday. Several thousand creative entries were received. These were judged on originality, cleverness, and naturalness of syntax. I looked particularly for examples that used the repeated words in different ways in the first and second halves. The quality of the results greatly exceeded my expectations. In fact, some of the submissions might well become new classics. First the runners-up:

Fall leaves after leaves fall.

Will my love love my will?

Herb the sage eats sage, the herb.

Please me by standing by me, please!

"Rock of Ages" preceded ages of rock.

Escher, drawing hands, drew hands drawing Escher.

In order to stop hunger, stop to order in.

Blessed are they that believe that they are blessed.

Parents love to have children; children have to love parents.

Says Mom, "What do you do?" You do what Mom says.

Family first sees Holy Father secretly father holy see's first family.

You know, I did little for you, for little did I know you.

Did I say you never say "Never say never"? You say I did.

Good little student does plan future, but future plan does student little good.

Better doctors like people treated well because well-treated people like doctors better.

Celebrate! Why not? If happy birthday's your hope, I hope your birthday's happy! If not, why celebrate?

Pain increase to aching back strikes, and sufferer finds no doctor. Doctor No finds sufferer and strikes back, aching to increase pain.

Finally--ta-dah!--the grand prize winner, from Peter L. Stein of San Francisco, who also submitted two of the runners-up above. He titles this "Future Headline out of Washington D.C."

First Ladies rule the state, and state the rule -- "Ladies first!"

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