Let’s Jump on the Word-Game Bandt Wagon

We all know what a palindrome is.  Well, I do anyway: a word, phrase or sentence that is spelt the same backward as it is forward. Like ‘reviver’. Or here’s a good one: ‘lepers repel’.

But there is another class of words, at least as interesting as palindromes.   They are those that, spelt backwards, deliver a different but valid word.  Like doom/mood.  Or tool/loot.  Or room/moor. Two-syllable instances are more interesting: tuber/rebut, sued/deus, laced/decal, lever/revel.

Does this interesting class of words also have a name, I hear you ask?  Yes, they do.  They are called bandtograms, named to highlight their essential pointlessness. The examples I have given you are imperfect bandtograms.

Now consider the word ‘drawer’.  If you reverse just the first syllable you get ‘warder’.  This is called a semibandt.  But each of these words, in turn, can be reversed to give a different word – a bandtogram:

drawer/reward to warder/redraw

This is a perfect bandtogram – a collection of four imperfect bandtograms derived from a single source word.

Here’s another one.  Taper yields the semibandt ‘pater’.  And:

taper/repat to pater/retap

Unfortunately, I have yet to identify another perfect bandtogram but, judging by current academic standards as exemplified by Professor Nareen Young, (who now insists she was joking about what white bread says about those who prefer it) this could be a perfect PhD thesis for some aspiring young etymologist – a future Kel Richards perhaps.

Yes, it’s pointless, but that hasn’t been an impediment to much of what passes for research in the humanities these days.  What is the point of palindromes, other than to provide a useful question at pub trivia quizzes?  Well, the palindrome must, by now, have pretty well reached its use by date in this context. My proposal is that it should be replaced by bandtograms.

I have a friend one of whose claims to fame is that he invented the phrase ‘get knotted’, which unfortunately you don’t hear that much anymore.  Apparently, he and a group of workmates in Britain had a game to invent phrases, use them frequently in public and see if any of them caught on.  ‘Get knotted’ did after, I think, being garnered from an ad campaign for carpet.  Anyway, they tossed it hither and yon into their conversation and eventually had the pleasure of hearing Ronnie Corbett use it.  It sounds improbable but I have no reason to doubt my friend – there are no royalties or anything like that accruing or in dispute.

That is where you, Quadrant Online readers, come in.  Please sow this etymological seed into your conversation whenever you get the chance (you will appear amazingly erudite) and we’ll see if it takes hold.  I might even be appointed Enterprise Professor of Etymology at the University of Melbourne, where I can rub shoulders with such academic luminaries as Professor Bruce Pascoe.

3 thoughts on “Let’s Jump on the Word-Game Bandt Wagon

  • Gordon Cheyne says:

    “Get knotted” brings back happy youthful memories, including this jovial puzzle:
    Decipher the following letters to find a message of goodwill: K N O T T ED G E T.
    Get it?

  • 27hugo27 says:

    Well, i spend most of my time in palindrome South Australia – guess where?

  • Malcolm Wilson says:

    It’s easy to find these words if you’re into computers and databases. I have a database of dictionary words, and after running some queries on them, I can say that there are about 2,000 words (or about 1,000 pairs of words) where the backwards version of the word also makes a word.
    There are plenty of three-letter words such as Bad (Dab), Bog (Gob), Lap (Pal), and Mid (Dim).
    Amongst say the five-letter words, you get combinations such as: Drawer, (Reward); Gelder, (Redleg); Looter, (Retool); Medles, (Seldem); Reknit, (Tinker); Relaid, (Dialer); Relive, (Eviler); Rennet, (Tenner); Repaid, (Diaper); Secret, (Terces); Seined, (Denies); Sellas, (Salles); Sinnet, (Tennis); Sleeps, (Speels); Slipup, (Pupils).

    Discussions on words always raise arguments as to whether they are legitimate English words, such as Medles (an old form of Meddles). Also Sinnet, (braided cordage) which is not in the Macquarie Dictionary but is in other dictionaries.
    The country areas of Australia are also big on using backwards words. In Armidale, NSW, the suburb near the railway station is called Teragram, (Margaret). Elsewhere in rural Australia you get properties with names such as Emoclew, (Welcome); Tabmow, (Wombat); Strebor, (Roberts); Aromet, (Temora) and Attadandoo, (Oodnadatta).

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