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July 19, 2012
At least, anagrammatically speaking.
Before television people used to actually entertain themselves (just think of it) with anagram games.
Dorothy Parker was the undisputed, “Mother Superior of Anagrams.” Alexander Woolcott was so obsessed with anagrams, he considered them, “The plague of his existence.”
So what exactly is one?
From the Greek, anagrammatismos, it's simply (or not so simply) rearranging the letters of a word or phrase, using all the original letters.
Anything less becomes an imperfect anagram.
It becomes state of the art when the anagram makes a comment on the word itself.
A decimal point = I'm a dot in place. Western Union = No Wire Unsent.
The construction of anagrams goes way back.
According to some historians, Pythagoras, in the 6th century BC used them to discover philosophical meanings. Plato and his followers believed they revealed divinity and destiny. The Kabbalists asserted, “Secret mysteries are woven in the numbers of letters.”
Lewis Carroll's own Wonderland was in anagramming the names of famous people:
Florence Nightingale = Flit on, cheering angell. Disraeli = I lead, sir. William Ewart Gladstone = Wild agitator means well!
(A modern version is George Bush = He bugs Gore.)
The British naturalist, Sir Peter Scott, believed in the existence of the Loch Ness Monster so strongly that in 1978 he gave it a scientific name. British politician Nicholas Fairbairn later anagrammed it:
Nessiteras rhombopteryx = Monster Hoax by Sir Peter S.
Today, you can use anagram dictionaries or "anagram solvers" on the Internet.
Call me a purist but I like the idea that some people figured these out all on their own:
Dormitory = Dirty Room. Listen = Silent. Madam Curie = Radium came. A telephone girl = Repeating "Hello." The country side = No City Dust Here. Evangelist = Evil's Agent. Is pity love? = Positively. Santa = Satan. (We won't go there.)
Dorothy Parker and friends played a complicated game called “Murder,” which you can almost recreate in a version of Scrabble called Clabbers. (You've already keenly spotted it as an anagram of Scrabble itself.)
As T.S. Eliot said, “My name is only an anagram of toilets.”
So don't be shy. If you come up with a great one, like—Do an angry hit = Tonya Harding, you can enter it in the Anagram Hall of Fame.
And, of course, anything you come up with is always welcome here. So let's have a conversation, which equals voices rant on.