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March 5, 2003

Able was I ere I saw Otis: Fans of the impressively long palindrome on the Nielsen Hayden home page (explained here by its author, Dan Hoey) will surely want to check out the 15,139 word palindrome generated by one Peter Norvig with help from a bit of Python code.
A man, a plan, a caddy, Ore, Lee, tsuba, Thaine, a lair, Uball, EHFA, Jaela, Gant, Masai, Liana, DVS, USES, Ojai, Ruyter, Geraint, Irbid, Naman, a milliard, Nahant, Epps, Argall, Emil, Lepus, a tort, a loon, Samia, HCM, a deme, Lenaea, glebae, Keon, a cart, seraphs, a suitor […]
Remarks Norvig:
After a few runs I got the palindrome below. Maybe I’m biased, but I think it starts out quite strong. “A man, a plan, a caddy” is the basic premise of another fine piece of storytelling. Unfortunately, things go downhill from there rather quickly. It contains truths, but it does not have a plot. It has Putnam, but no logic; Tesla, but no electricity; Pareto, but no optimality; Ebert, but no thumbs up. It has an ensemble cast including Tim Allen, Ed Harris and Al Pacino, but they lack character development. It has Sinatra and Pink, but it doesn’t sing. It has Monet and Goya, but no artistry. It has Slovak, Inuit, Creek, and Italian, but its all Greek to me. It has exotic locations like Bali, Maui, Brasil, Uranus, and Canada, but it jumps around needlessly. It has Occam, but it is the antithesis of his maxim “Entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem.” If you tried to read the whole thing, you’d get to “a yawn” and stop. Or you might be overcome by the jargon, such as PETN, ILGWU, PROM, UNESCO, and MYOB. Most serendipitous of all is that Steele, who collected several shorter versions of the Panama oeuvre in a book about a Lisp, shows up in the very last line.
Norvig also offers a palindrome that is “purer” in that it deploys no proper names, which clocks in at 1801 words, “more than tripling Hoey’s 540-word version, but only half-way (logarithmically) to his (quite reasonable) expectation of a ten-fold improvement.” [05:27 PM]
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Comments on Able was I ere I saw Otis::

Steve ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2003, 10:21 PM:

If I spoke French, I might understand this 500-word palindrome by Georges Perec. Also note the URL.

Kip ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2003, 10:55 PM:

Some years back, _Games_ magazine had an article on a new invention for people who love the tortured syntax of palindromes, but don't want to bear the burden of reversibility, and gave samples of such "plaindromes" as:

Stella, Edna and Otis deified Satan.
Money-man I; an Adam; not even a doom.

I don't remember if this is one of theirs or one of mine, but I'm also quite fond of "Able was I ere I saw Hackensack."

Jeremy Osner ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2003, 10:59 AM:

Perec popped immediately into my mind on reading the post. I was thinking about him yesterday (love, love "A Void") -- how insuperable a task to try and translate "EDNA D'NILU" but I wish it could be undertaken. I too can speak no French.

Jeremy Osner ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2003, 11:00 AM:

Code-generated palindromes, though, strike me as just silly.

Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2003, 01:56 PM:

I have to say I'm less than impressed by palindromes that are just lists. All you need is to collect all the words that make another word reversed. Some cleverness comes in when you're working phrases, I'll admit, but it still isn't as impressive as the ones that are about something. Even "A man, a plan, a canal, Panama" is about something. "Able was I ere I saw Elba" is brilliant.

Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2003, 06:01 PM:

I meant "less impressed," not "less than impressed." Sorry.

Kevin J. Maroney ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2003, 03:42 PM:

"Marge let Sharon see Norah's telegram." is probably the most graceful, unforced palindromic sentence I've ever seen.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2003, 10:50 PM:

Unfortunately, as Lydia Nickerson just pointed out to me in AIM, it's not actually a palindrome.

Devin ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2003, 11:28 PM:

"Able Was I Ere I Saw Elba" is probably the greatest palindrome ever created.. It's also what I call a "perfect" palindrome. That is, all there is no combination of words to create the reverse palindrome, each word is used in its entirety without letters from adjoining words

Kevin J. Maroney ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2003, 03:17 AM:

I can't believe I didn't see this response ere now. It should be:

"Marge lets Norah see Sharon's telegram."

or, if you prefer,

".margelet s'norahS ees haroN stel egram."

which makes it much clearer....

My apologies for botching it so many months ago.