A Verbal Palindrome

Most palindromes are spelled symmetrically, so their letters produce the same phrase whether read backward or forward:

Able was I ere I saw Elba.

But it’s also possible to do this at the level of words, as in this example:

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

When this is read backward, word by word, it produces the same sentence as when read forward. And it’s true!

Welcome to America


Here’s a symbol of American unity: the driving of the “golden spike” to complete the world’s first transcontinental railroad, Promontory, Utah, May 10, 1869.

Unfortunately, as it turns out, American unity is kind of a relative thing. The Central Pacific’s Chinese laborers were specifically excluded from the festivities. Most had received between one and three dollars a day.


“One martini is all right. Two are too many, and three are not enough.” — James Thurber

“The Beech Tree. — A Nonconductor of Lightning.”

Dr. Beeton, in a letter to Dr. Mitchill of New York, dated 19th of July, 1824, states, that the beech tree (that is, the broad leaved or American variety of Fagus sylvatiea,) is never known to be assailed by atmospheric electricity. So notorious, he says, is this fact, that in Tennessee, it is considered almost an impossibility to be struck by lightning, if protection be sought under the branches of a beech tree. Whenever the sky puts on a threatening aspect, and the thunder begins to roll, the Indians leave their pursuit, and betake themselves to the shelter of the nearest beech tree, till the storm pass over; observation having taught these sagacious children of nature, that, while other trees are often shivered to splinters, the electric fluid is not attracted by the beech. Should farther observation establish the fact of the non-conducting quality of the American beech, great advantage may evidently be derived from planting hedge rows of such trees around the extensive barn yards in which cattle are kept, and also in disposing groups and single trees in ornamental plantations in the neighbourhood of the dwelling houses of the owners.

New Monthly Magazine, quoted in The Mirror of Literature, Amusement, and Instruction, July 14, 1827



The Bible does not contain the word bible.

Judging a Book by Its Cover

Because of its cover design, some readers briefly imagined that SF author Jack Dann’s 1984 novel The Man Who Melted was called The Man Who Melted Jack Dann. That inspired some readers to search for other such titles, with some success:

  • The Joy of Cooking Irma S. Rombauer
  • Captain Blood Returns Raphael Sabatini
  • Flush Virginia Woolf
  • Contact Carl Sagan

Any others? You’ll get extra credit for bending parts of speech (Two Sisters Gore Vidal).

Extra Points for Creativity

“The boy who explained the meaning of the words fort and fortress must have had rather vague ideas as to masculine and feminine nouns. He wrote: ‘A fort is a place to put men in, and a fortress a place to put women in.’”

– Henry B. Wheatley, Literary Blunders, 1893

Great Wall of China

As many as 1 million workers died building the Great Wall of China.

It’s been called the “longest cemetery on Earth.”

In a Word

adj. delicious; voluptuous

Palindrome Years

2002 was a palindrome year — it reads the same forward and backward.

They occur only once a century. The next one will be 2112.