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An anagram is a type of word play, the result of rearranging the letters of a word or phrase to produce a new word or phrase, using all the original letters exactly once; e.g., orchestra = carthorse, A decimal point = I'm a dot in place. Someone who creates anagrams is called an anagrammatist. The original word or phrase is known as the subject of the anagram.

Any word or phrase that exactly reproduces the letters in another order is an anagram. Skill in creating an anagram is permutation to produce phrases which, in some way, reflect or comment on the subject. Such an anagram may be a synonym or antonym of its subject, a parody, a criticism, or praise; e.g. George Bush = He bugs Gore.; Madonna Louise Ciccone = Occasional nude income; William Shakespeare = I am a weakish speller, Roger Meddows-Taylor = Great words or melody.

Assumptions

The creation of anagrams assumes certainly an alphabet, the symbols of which are to be permuted, and the Latin alphabet is usually now implicitly meant. For a given natural language, diacritics are usually disregarded (usual for English native speakers anyway), and standard orthography is to be used (a point to bear in mind in the history, because spelling in English only slowly became fixed, and is not quite international). There is the important "rule" that every letter must be used, with exactly the same number of occurrences as in the anagrammed word or phrase; any result that falls short is called an imperfect anagram. The history of anagrams shows that that even the language may not be fixed, since anagrams in Latin were considered witty over many centuries. There were attempts to regulate anagram formation, an important one in English being that of George Puttenham Of the Anagram or Posy Transposed in The Art of English Poesie (1589). Historical material on anagrams only makes sense in terms of the assumptions that were current at that period.

History of anagrams

The construction of anagrams is an amusement of great antiquity. They were popular throughout Europe during the Middle Ages, for example with the poet and composer Guillaume de Machaut, and go back at least to the Greek poet Lycophron, in the third century BCE.

Influence of Latin

As a literary game when Latin was the common property of the literate, Latin anagrams were prominent: two examples are the change of "Ave Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum" (Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord [is] with you) into "Virgo serena, pia, munda et immaculata" (Serene virgin, pious, clean and spotless), and the anagrammatic answer to Pilate's question, "Quid est veritas?" (What is truth?), namely, "Est vir qui adest" (It is the man who is here). The origins of these are not documented. Latin continued to influence letter values (such as I = J, U = V and W = VV).

Early modern period

When it comes to the 17th century and anagrams in English or other languages, there is a great deal of documented evidence of learned interest. The lawyer Thomas Egerton was praised through the anagram gestat honorem; the physician George Ent took the anagrammatic motto genio surget, which requires his first name as "Georgius". James I's courtiers discovered in "James Stuart" "a just master", and converted "Charles James Stuart" into "Claims Arthur's seat" (even at that point in time, the letters I and J were more-or-less interchangeable). Walter Quin, tutor to the future Charles I, worked hard on multilingual anagrams on the name of father James. A notorious murder scandal, the Overbury case, threw up two imperfect anagrams that were aided by typically loose spelling and were recorded by Simonds D'Ewes: 'Francis Howard' (for Frances Carr, Countess of Somerset, her maiden name spelled in a variant) became Car findes a whore, with the letters E hardly counted, and the victim Thomas Overbury, as 'Thomas Overburie', was written as O! O! a busie murther, with a V counted as U.

William Drummond of Hawthornden, in an essay On the Character of a Perfect Anagram, tried to lay down permissible rules (such as S standing for Z), and possible letter omissions. William Camden provided a definition of "Anagrammatisme" as "a dissolution of a name truly written into his letters, as his elements, and a new connection of it by artificial transposition, without addition, subtraction or change of any letter, into different words, making some perfect sense applyable (i.e., applicable) to the person named." Dryden disdainfully called the pastime the "torturing of one poor word ten thousand ways".

"Eleanor Audeley", wife of Sir John Davies, is said to have been brought before the High Commission in 1634 for extravagances, stimulated by the discovery that her name could be transposed to "Reveale, O Daniel", and to have been laughed out of court by another anagram submitted by Sir John Lambe, the dean of the Arches, "Dame Eleanor Davies", "Never soe mad a ladie".

An example from France was a flattering anagram for Cardinal Richelieu, comparing him to Hercules or at least one of his hands (Hercules being a kingly symbol), where "Armand de Richelieu" became "Ardue main d'Hercule".

Modern period

Examples from the nineteenth century are the transposition of "Horatio Nelson" into "Honor est a Nilo" (Latin = Honor is from the Nile); and of "Florence Nightingale" into "Flit on, cheering angel". The Victorian love of anagramming as recreation is alluded to by Augustus De Morgan using his own name as example; "Great Gun, do us a sum!" is attributed to his son William De Morgan, but a family friend John Thomas Graves was prolific, and a manuscript with over 2,800 has been preserved.

With the advent of surrealism as a poetic movement, anagrams regained the artistic respect they had had in the Baroque period. The German poet Unica Zürn, who made extensive use of anagram techniques, came to regard obsession with anagrams as a "dangerous fever", because it created isolation of the author. The surrealist leader André Breton coined the anagram Avida Dollars for Salvador Dalí, to tarnish his reputation by the implication of commercialism.

Also 'Weapons of Mass Destruction' is an anagram of 'Now Americas Fondest Tossup'

In the popular Harry Potter series it Lord Voldemort reveals himself by showing Harry (in the Chamber) that "Tom Marvolo Riddle" turns into "I am Lord Voldemort."

Applications

While anagramming is certainly a recreation first, there are ways in which anagrams are put to use, and these can be more serious, or at least not quite frivolous and formless. For example, psychologists use anagram-oriented tests, often called "anagram solution tasks", to assess the implicit memory of young adults and adults alike.

Priority established by anagram

Natural philosophers (astronomers and others) of the 17th century transposed their discoveries into Latin anagrams, to establish their priority. In this way they laid claim to new discoveries, before their results were ready for publication.

Galileo used smaismrmilmepoetaleumibunenugttauiras for Altissimum planetam tergeminum observavi ("I have observed the most distant planet to have a triple form") for discovering the Rings of Saturn in 1610.Galileo announced his discovery that Venus had phases like the Moon in the form "Haec immatura a me iam frustra leguntur -oy" (Latin: These immature ones have already been read in vain by me -oy), that is, when rearranged, "Cynthiae figuras aemulatur Mater Amorum" (Latin: The Mother of Loves [= Venus] imitates the figures of Cynthia [= the moon]).

When Robert Hooke discovered Hooke's law in 1660, he first published it in anagram form, ceiinossttu, for ut tensio, sic vis (Latin: as the tension, so the force).

In a related use, from 1975, British naturalist Sir Peter Scott coined the scientific term "Nessiteras rhombopteryx" (Greek for "The monster {or wonder} of Nessmarker with the diamond shaped fin") for the apocryphal Loch Ness Monster. Shortly afterwards, several London newspapers pointed out that "Nessiteras rhombopteryx" anagrams into "Monster hoax by Sir Peter S". However, Robert Rines, who previously made two underwater photographs allegedly showing the monster, countered with the fact that they can also be arranged into "Yes both pix are monsters, R."

Pseudonyms

Anagrams are connected to pseudonyms, by the fact that they may conceal or reveal, or operate somewhere in between like a mask that can establish identity. For example, Jim Morrison used an anagram of his name in the Doors song L.A. Woman, calling himself "Mr. Mojo Risin' ". The use of anagrams and fabricated personal names may be to circumvent restrictions on the use of real names, as happened in the 18th century when Edward Cave wanted to get around restrictions imposed on the reporting of the House of Commonsmarker. In a genre such as farce or parody, anagrams as names may be used for pointed and satiric effect.

Pseudonyms adopted by authors are sometimes transposed forms,of their names; thus "Calvinus" becomes "Alcuinus" (here V = U) or "François Rabelais" = "Alcofribas Nasier". The name "Voltaire" of François Marie Arouet fits this pattern, and is allowed to be an anagram of "Arouet, l[e] j[eune]" (U = V, J = I) that is, "Arouet the younger". Other examples: "Arrigo Boito" = "Tobia Gorrio"; "Edward Gorey" = "Ogdred Weary", = "Regera Dowdy" or = "E. G. Deadworry" (and others); "Vladimir Nabokov" = "Vivian Darkbloom", = "Vivian Bloodmark", = "Blavdak Vinomori" or = "Dorian Vivalcomb"; "Bryan Waller Proctor" = "Barry Cornwall, poet"; "(Sanche) de Gramont" = "Ted Morgan"; "Dave Barry"="Ray Adverb"; "Declan Gunn" = Glen Duncan; Dan Abnormal = Damon Albarn; and so on. Several of these are "imperfect anagrams", letters having been left out in some cases for the sake of easy pronunciation.

A source of titles

Anagrams used for titles afford scope for some types of wit. Examples:



Perfect anagram games and puzzles

Anagrams are in themselves a recreational activity, but they also make up part of many other games, puzzles and game shows. The Jumble is a puzzle found in many newspapers in the United Statesmarker requiring the unscrambling of letters to find the solution. Cryptic crossword puzzles frequently use anagrammatic clues, usually indicating that they are anagrams by the inclusion of a descriptive term like "confused" or "in disarray".

An example would be Businessman burst into tears (9 letters). The solution, stationer, is an anagram of into tears, the letters of which have burst out of their original arrangement to form the name of a type of businessman.

Apposite anagrams of the names of famous people add something here: for example,

Imperfect anagram skills

Numerous games and contests involve some element of imperfect anagram formation as a basic skill. Some examples:

  • In a version of Scrabble called Clabbers, the name itself being an anagram of Scrabble, tiles may be placed in any order on the board as long as they anagram to a valid word.
  • On the British game show Countdown, contestants are given 30 seconds to make the longest word from nine random letters.
  • In Boggle, players make constrained words from a grid of sixteen random letters, by joining adjacent cubes.
  • On the British game show BrainTeaser, contestants are shown a word broken into randomly arranged segments and must announce the whole word. At the end of the game there is a "Pyramid" which starts with a three-letter word. A letter appears in the line below to which the player must add the existing letters to find a solution. The pattern continues until the player reaches the final eight-letter anagram. The player wins the game by solving all the anagrams within the allotted time.
  • In Bananagrams, players place tiles from a pool into crossword-style word arrangements in a race to see who can finish the pool of tiles first.


Methods of construction

Sometimes it is possible to "see" anagrams in words, unaided by tools, though the more letters involved the more difficult this becomes. Anagram dictionaries could also be used. Computer programs, known as "anagram servers", "anagram solvers" or "anagrammers", offer a much faster route to creating anagrams, and a large number of these programs are available on the Internet. The program or server carries out an exhaustive search of a database of words, to produce a list containing every possible combination of words or phrases from the input word or phrase. Some programs (such as Lexpert) restrict to one-word answers. Many anagram servers can control the search results, by excluding or including certain words, limiting the number or length of words in each anagram, or limiting the number of results. Anagram solvers are often banned from online anagram games. The disadvantage of computer anagram solvers, especially when applied to multi-word anagrams, is that their poor understanding of the meaning of the words they are manipulating. They usually cannot filter out meaningful or appropriate anagrams from large numbers of nonsensical word combinations.

Some anagrammatists indicate the method they used. Anagrams constructed without aid of a computer are noted as having been done ‘manually’ or ‘by hand’; those made by utilizing a computer may be noted ‘by machine’ or ‘by computer’, or may indicate the name of the computer program (using ‘Anagram Genius’).

There are also a few "natural" instances: English words unconsciously created by switching letters around. The French chaise longue ("long chair") became the American "chaise lounge" by metathesis (transposition of letters and/or sounds). It has also been speculated that the English "curd" comes from the Latin crudus ("raw").

See also



References

  1. Anagrammatist, www.dictionary.com. Retrieved on 2008-08-12.
  2. HOASM
  3. The LoveToKnow Free Online Encyclopedia
  4. Articles from the Dictionary of National Biography.
  5. Dictionary of National Biography.
  6. Early Stuart Libels
  7. Early Stuart Libels
  8. Henry Benjamin Wheatley, On Anagrams (1862) , p. 58.
  9. Remains, 7th ed., 1674.
  10. Oxford Book of Word Games
  11. Hugh Trevor-Roper, Archbishop Laud (2000), p. 146.
  12. H. W. van Helsdingen, Notes on Two Sheets of Sketches by Nicolas Poussin for the Long Gallery of the Louvre, Simiolus: Netherlands Quarterly for the History of Art, Vol. 5, No. 3/4 (1971), pp. 172-184.
  13. 1911 Britannica article "anagram".
  14. In his Budget of Paradoxes, p. 82.
  15. Robert Edoward Moritz, On Mathematics and Mathematicians (2007), p. 151.
  16. Anna Stirling, William De Morgan and His Wife (1922) p. 64.
  17. AIM25 home page
  18. Friederike Ursula Eigler, Susanne Kord, The Feminist Encyclopedia of German Literature (1997), pp. 14-5.
  19. Java, Rosalind I. "Priming and Aging: Evidence of Preserved Memory Function in an Anagram Solution Task." The American Journal of Psychology, Vol. 105, No. 4. (Winter, 1992), pp. 541–548.
  20. Derek Gjertsen, The Newton Handbook (1986), p. 16.
  21. Loch Ness Monster, crystalinks.com
  22. Institute of Historical Research (IHR) home page
  23. I, Lucifer



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