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Monday 10 May 2021

Word of Janus!

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Les mots janus, thus the French indicate words and phrases that admit the possibility of a reverse reading. Modern puzzles distinguish the "palindrome" from the "two-faced": depending on whether the reversal exactly reproduces the first reading, or rather re-proposes another one that is different, but still meaningful.

These virtuosities, which in the past were also attributed supernatural and mysterious origins, had different denominations: "cancrini" were called palindrome verses because, like the shrimp (cancer), go backwards; and they were also called "sotadici" from the name of the Greek poet Sotade; and of Sotade it is said that King Ptolemy Philadelphus, exasperated by the continuous examples that the poet dedicated to him, made him fall into the sea. Diomedes called the palindromic lines "reciprocal" and, later, Sidonio Apollinare defined them as "competitors". And that's not enough: for the Tabourrot delle Bigaurres they were "retrograde" and Étienne Pasquier, in his Research, he called them "revolving" (retournantes), without counting other names such as "rolling", "anacyclic", "rovesciantisi" etc.

The Latin palindrome reported by Sidonius is very well known: in girum imus nocteecce et consumimur igni (we go around at night and behold we consume ourselves in the fire), towards which it is said referring to the moths that the poet saw burning in the flame of the lamp. Very beautiful is also the palindrome inscription reported on many Orthodox baptismal fonts (and also in the baptistery of Nôtre-Dame des Victoires in Paris): nizon anomemata me monan ozin (wash away the sins, not just the face).

She defames but trustworthy, so the Count of Chasteauneuf expressed himself towards a not so kind woman "Demiselle" who had said badly about his girlfriend. Quite fantastic, however, is Napoleon's admission (in English ...!): able was I ere I saw Elba and likewise Adam's presentation of himself to Eve: Madame, I'm Adam. Finally, in Italian, the palindromes of Arrigo Boito should be remembered: Ebro is Otel, but Hamlet is orbe!, for example, and again the two lines

He is faithful he does not lede fe '
and Madonna knots me.

that the composer marked on the ticket together with a ring donated to Eleonora Duse. «Words are made to play», Arrigo Boito wrote to the actress on another occasion; and he proved it by having a lot of fun with this kind of games, for which he used the pseudonym of Tobia Gorrio, anagram of your name and surname.

Moreover, a piece of music is known by Boito that could also be played with the sheet of music turned over. And just as well known are his verses written only to show that the accents count in the metric and not the actual number of syllables:

Yes raw is the frost
that the rhymes sdrùcciolanosene
trembling and, at the end of the verse,
the droplets of stalactic ink have been altered
under the pen, or stalagmìtificanomisi.

The mechanism lent itself well to the development of enigmas according to the ancient technique of the literal diagram included in the development: an example of a palindrome phrase is the one performed (in ancient times ...) on the combination the rates set:

X xxxxx xxxxxxx
to ten percent
they are too high
Right now!
Central Banks
they will have to lower them,
or bills
none will bring.

The following is a "two-faced syllabic phrase" by Cesare Strazza, an early twentieth-century enigmist, carried out with the same technique as the literal diagram:

- Feel pretty saucy,
I want to tell you a little word….
- Please leave me alone:
I have no time to waste!
- Come on, don't be shy,
xxoo yyzz, dear Rosa:
Can't you see that I'm crazy?
- zzyy ooxx? I do not understand.
with the clear reading of the last verses:
- Come on, don't be shy,
Give me, dear Rosa:
Can't you see that I'm crazy?
- How do you say? I do not understand.

In the magazine “Il Labirinto” an illustrated game by Giovanni Ragonese appeared many years ago (1991) played on two images, for which, naturally, the temporal succession had to be taken into account. It was a "palindrome phrase" (4,5,2,4,1,2,2,5,5): at seven in the evening the king was called saddle, but the idea of ​​the graphic transposition of the scheme did not convince the reviewer Sal Kierkia, who, the following month, observed how the "palindrome" «due to its innate and constructive unrealism, does not tolerate its concrete figuration: it is a shamelessly literal phenomenon and is useless dress him with images ».

Yes, it is true - it may be added - but this must also happen when a literal artifice becomes an enigmatic game scheme: then the figuration is equivalent to the development in verse and becomes simply the form, in which the literal game is based on a construction enigmistica.

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