Welcome to alt.anagrams

- The usenet group alt.anagrams = Unearth top language masters! -

alt.anagrams lets you pull up a chair in one of the friendlier, wittier, more intelligent USENET newsgroups.

This FAQ is posted to alt.anagrams every few weeks. [If the link doesn't work, you might need to configure your browser differently or use a separate newsreader program. It's also possible that your ISP doesn't provide Usenet access, in which case you can use a commercial or free news-server or use the probably-less-than-ideal Google Groups interface.]

Most content compiled by Larry Brash, William Tunstall-Pedoe, and Anna Shefl. Other, specific contributions are noted below.
Last updated on 22 February 2014, by Anna Shefl.
Crudely HTML-ised on 4 August 2002, Phil Carmody with the help of Suomi Viina.

Acknowledgements

Many thanks to the members for their assistance in providing information for this FAQ. They provided many of the examples and pointers to the anagram generators and books. Many thanks to everyone else who has sent suggestions, corrections, and positive comments. Specific acknowledgements are noted in each section of this FAQ.

Most alt.anagrams members use their real names, but it is not compulsory to do so. However, we do like to anagram new members' names as part of their initiation.

This FAQ ...

Frequently Asked Questions = Quit! End one's flaky requests.

Table of Contents

  1. Anagrams
    1. What is an anagram?
    2. What are some examples?
    3. What is a pangram?
    4. Are there any unusual varieties of anagrams?
    5. What is the longest one-word anagram?
    6. What set of letters has the most one-word anagrams?
    7. What is the history of anagrams?
    8. What is the point of anagrams?
  2. Their creation and fine-tuning
    1. How do you create anagrams?
    2. What are the hallmarks of a good anagram?
    3. Where can one find anagram generators, books, and Web sites?
  3. Group convention
    1. Would you anagram my name, please?
    2. What do you do with spam in this newsgroup?
    3. Is there anything that I should not post here?
    4. What should I do before posting here?
    5. Is there any other netiquette that I should observe here?
  4. Anagrams across time and space
    1. How can I find other anagramists?
    2. Where can I find anagram archives?
    3. How else can I show the world my anagramming genius?

1 Anagrams

1.1 What is an anagram?

An anagram is the apposite transposition of the letters of a word, name, phrase, sentence, title, or the like into another word or phrase.

All letters of the name or phrase must be used once and only once. Putting the first half of this basic rule of anagramming another way:

The best anagrams are meaningful and relate in some way to the original subject. They can be funny, rude, satirical, or flattering, as the examples in the next section of the FAQ demonstrate.

People sometimes confuse palindromes and acronyms with anagrams. Palindromes are words or phrases that are spelt the same forwards and backwards (e.g., 'A man, a plan, a canal, Panama!'). Palindromists have their own newsgroup, called - appropriately - alt.tla. The Fun-with-words site at http://www.fun-with-words.com/ has a useful section on palindromes.

Strictly speaking, acronyms are words that are formed by the initials of a place, organisation, or the like, e.g., MASH (Mobile Army Surgical Hospital). However, the meaning of the word 'acronym' has undergone some change with the advent of the Internet and the use of the TLA (three-letter acronym), such as 'BTW' (by the way). These are really abbreviations or initialisms rather than true acronyms.

1.2 What are some examples?

Anagrams that tend to be preferred by anagramists are those that are related to, or give insight into, the text being anagrammed. Here are some examples of discoveries or re-discoveries by members of alt.anagrams:

Some general ones

Political commentary

Famous places & things

Famous people

Entertainment

Famous quotes

Longer quotes

And many would consider these among the shorter of long anagrams. The group sees song lyrics transformed into academic discussion, sonnets turned into other sonnets, and so forth.

Even Jon Gearhart's 18,870-letter anagram of 'The Hunting of the Snark' by Lewis Carroll is short by some standards. The longest known anagram is Mike Keith's treatment of Moby Dick, which can be found at http://www.anagrammy.com/literary/mkeith/poems-dom21.html and weighs in at a hefty 935,763 letters. It unseated Richard Brodie's piece paraphrasing Jonathan Swift's Battle of the Books, at http://www.anagrammy.com/literary/rb/poems-rb16.html.

For some tips on creating long anagrams, many recommend the article on The Art of Long Anagramming at http://www.anagrammy.com/art-long.html. Nor do I think the group would mind a specific question or two.

1.3 What is a pangram?

A pangram is a short sentence containing all 26 letters of the alphabet. Some reserve the term for sentences containing exactly 26 letters, sometimes referred to as perfect pangrams. By our definition of an anagram, all letters must be used once and only once, so only a 26-letter pangram is an anagram of the English alphabet.

The most well-known pangrams are these:

Each is shorter than the last, but letters are still repeated. To arrive at a perfect pangram, the use of obscure foreign words and abbreviations is often required, as seen in these examples:

Where 'cwm' is Welsh for a circular valley, a glyph is a carved figure, 'vext' is a poetic spelling of 'vexed', and a quiz is an 18th century term for an eccentric. Thus, 'carved figures in a valley on a bank of a fjord irritated an eccentric person'. One of the better examples is this perfect pangram, where more commonly used abbreviations are used:

1.4 Are there any unusual varieties of anagrams?

(Adapted from Words at Play by O.V. Michaelsen, and with additional material from William Tunstall-Pedoe)

An antigram, or antonymous anagram, has an opposite meaning to the subject text. Such anagrams are quite uncommon and often accidentally discovered. Here are some great examples:

A word that is spelled backward to become a new word, a word reversal, has been called an anadrome. This term combines 'ana-' from anagram and '-drome' from palindrome. Lewis Carroll called this a semordnilap ('palindromes' spelled backwards). Older sources (Dudeney, 1929) referred to these as antigrams. Examples of this genre include:

Transposed couplets, or pairagrams, are single-word anagrams that placed together create a short meaningful phrase.

And, finally, a triplet or trianagram:

1.5 What is the longest one-word anagram?

Which is the longest anagram of a single word into another single word depends on the amount of transposition of letters that is acceptable and also whether using rather contrived technical, scientific, or medical names is acceptable.

According to the Guinness Book of Records, the longest non-scientific English words that form anagrams are the 18-letter ones below; however, they require no more than a simple swap of two letters.

The longest scientific anagram is 27 letters, but this involves just the simple movement of one letter.

Our list of 12- to 17-letter words that can be anagrammed into another word was compiled by William Tunstall-Pedoe and Larry Brash. Being on the list requires that no more than three consecutive letters from the original be repeated in sequence in the anagram, but the list does include unusual or technical words. It can be found here.

1.6 What set of letters has the most one-word anagrams?

One problem in answering this question is that there is no one authority as to what constitutes a legitimate word. Ross Eckler's Making the Alphabet Dance lists 24 anagrams of the letters 'aest', but many of these are quite obscure and they are drawn from a wide range of sources.

Merriam-Webster's unabridged dictionary contains entries for these 14 words:

Other wordplay sources omit some of these words and/or add others, including the multi-word anagrams 'tin ears' and 'in tears'.

Word Ways has for some years been collecting anagrams of 'aeginrst'. William Tunstall-Pedoe indicates that a whopping 157 of these have some justification.

1.7 What is the history of anagrams?

(Adapted from The Anagram Dictionary by Michael Curl and Words at Play by O.V. Michaelsen)

According to some historians, anagrams originated in the 4th century B.C. with the Greek poet Lycophron, who used them to flatter the rich and mighty. Other sources suggest that Pythagorus, in the 6th century B.C., used anagrams to discover philosophical meanings. Plato and his followers believed that anagrams revealed divinity and destiny. Alexander the Great dreamed that he had caught a satyr the night before the siege of Tyre. His advisors told him it was a good omen because the Greek word for satyr anagrammed to 'Tyre'. The city fell the next day.

Anagrams were often believed to have mystical or prophetic meaning in Roman and early Christian times. History then mentions little of anagrams until the 13th century A.D., when the Jewish Cabalists again found mystical significance in them.

In the Middle Ages in Europe, anagrams became popular. However, the principal activity of anagramists in the Middle Ages was in forming anagrams on religious texts. For example:

or, more irreverently:

Many authors anagrammed their names to make pseudonyms. Francois Rabelais became Alcofribas Nasier, and Calvinus became Alcuinus ('v' and 'u' were interchangeable in Latin). The two wrote abusive anagrams of each other's names.

In the 16th and 17th centuries, scientists, such as Galileo, Huygens, and Robert Hooke, often recorded their results in anagram form to stake their claim on a discovery and prevent anyone claiming the credit.

At the height of the French monarchy, Louis XIII appointed a Royal Anagrammatist, Thomas Billon, to entertain the Court with amusing anagrams of people's names.

The 19th century brought about the vogue of anagramming the names of famous persons. Lewis Carroll gave us:

This era also gave us the cognate anagram, where the anagram has some relevance to the original, e.g.,

British naturalist Sir Peter Scott believed in the existence of the Loch Ness Monster so strongly that in 1978 he gave it a scientific name. Scottish MP Nicholas Fairbairn later anagrammed it:

Today, one finds anagrams mainly in cryptic crosswords and, of course, here in alt.anagrams.

1.8 What is the point of anagrams?

Essentially, anagramming is a recreational activity. Great pleasure can be obtained when one finds a witty anagram in someone's name. For example, a 'visitor' to alt.anagrams presented a false name, so we attempted to find the 'hidden truth' in it:

(Practical joking is not unknown in alt.anagrams.)

An important aim is to find a relevant or apt anagram that is amusing, poignant, or abusive in content, and one that either paraphrases the original text or creates an 'antigram', an anagram with the opposite meaning to the subject text.

Occasionally anagram puzzles are presented to be solved, e.g., a book title and author. It is a great feeling when you crack the code.

Topical anagrams from current events are frequently a source of interest. For example:

Occasionally this newsgroup is belittled by outsiders who think that it is all a waste of time and that we 'are stupid geeks and should get a life'. Such criticism is dealt with in our usual way. We anagram the crap out of the critic!

2 Their creation and fine-tuning

2.1 How do you create anagrams?

There are two basic ways: Manually and with an anagram generator program (Anagram generator = Got a name arranger?).

Some regulars here prefer to anagram manually, using a pencil and paper or with Scrabble tiles. Others use anagram generator programs (further details in section 2.3). The main advantages of using a computer program are speed and the generator's dictionary. They will generate hundreds or thousands of anagrams in a minute or two. Most will be meaningless, and one has to wade through them, find the most appropriate combinations of words, arrange the words, etc.

There has been debate in the group as to whether using an anagram generator is 'cheating'. Sometimes, generators will quickly reveal a great anagram, but there is always a modicum of luck and a lot of skill needed to find the best anagrams. The consensus here is that it is not cheating. Programs have also been written that juggle items in a long list (recording artists, aphorisms, etc.) between the 'left' and 'right' side until an anagram is formed; while opinions vary as to the artistry and merit of anagrams generated in this way, there is room in the group for such anagrams and civil discussion of them.

2.2 What are the hallmarks of a good anagram?

These are hallmarks of a good anagram, mostly as gleaned from erudite postings on this subject by Richard Brodie, William Tunstall-Pedoe, Richard Grantham, and Jean Fontaine. Examples from the folk in alt.anagrams are included.

(1) Meaningfulness. It must be more than just a series of unconnected words in no particular order. It must 'sound' like a meaningful phrase or a sentence, however condensed. Condensations that sound like newspaper headlines are quite acceptable. Simply reordering the words can make a difference.

(2) Aptness, relevance, or reference to the original phrase. This may involve the use of synonyms, paraphrasing the original phrase, or a commentary or joke about the original. The more relevant the anagram is to the original phrase, the better it will be regarded. It may even be the direct opposite in meaning (an antigram). Examples might also include a question in the original phrase that is answered in the anagram.

(3) Explanation. An anagram should be self-explanatory, self-sufficient; it should not need any extra explanation or comment. Occasionally, such as when the subject matter is obscure/regional or the anagram refers to a little-known aspect of the original, it may validly be accompanied by some brief details; however, in most cases, the anagram is weak if an explanation is required.

(4) Avoidance of incorrect or uncommon spellings. These detract from the quality of the anagram and make it seem contrived or the author seem semi-literate. Old-fashioned spellings (hath, doth, aye, nay, 'tis) are often acceptable. So too are shortened words like 'n' (for 'and'), e'er, or ma'am, particularly if appropriate to the style of the anagram.

Even non-words can be used to good effect on occasion:

(5) Avoidance of repetition of words in original phrase. Repeating a key word from the original in its anagram detracts from the cleverness of the result. The repetition of 'the' and other short non-key words is quite OK, of course. Occasionally, the repetition is acceptable. Such an anagram is sometimes referred to as a parallelogram.

(6) Humour, be it rude, witty, sarcastic, or abusive, will always improve an anagram, especially when the punchline contains a real surprise. WARNING: Eating and drinking whilst reading alt.anagrams can lead to the contents of your oral cavity being sprayed over your monitor or drinks being spilt onto your keyboard.

(7) Grammatical correctness is the one area where some of us are pedantic. Many a good anagram has failed because of poor grammar. For example, nouns starting with a vowel sound must have 'an' rather than 'a' before them. Minor discrepancies can be overlooked if the anagram excels in all other areas. Long anagrams should have impeccable grammar because having so many letters allows great flexibility in construction.

(8) Clever use of punctuation. The use of punctuation has its critics, the purists who disapprove of any punctuation at all. However, good use of punctuation can improve an ordinary anagram and change it into an extraordinary one, if cleverly done.

Perhaps the ultimate in flow allowed through punctuation is an anagram with the phrase in the left side continuing on in the right-hand side, for one coherent thought. One side may be a set phrase, though it needn't be. Two examples:

(9) Minimal use of interjections. Whilst the use of 'oh', 'eh', 'hey', 'ah', 'ahem', 'shhh', and so on can be a handy way of getting rid of those annoying left-over letters, many believe that the excessive use of this device will damage an anagram. The use of one interjection in an otherwise great anagram is often considered acceptable. The key is for the word to be well-integrated rather than tacked on. Even the much-maligned 'hi' can sometimes enhance an anagram.

(10) Avoidance of contrived subject text. The best anagrams are those where the subject text is a familiar phrase or a real name. Using highly contrived subject text to create a clever anagram considerably weakens the result. Using minor contrivances, such as adding the definite or indefinite article to the text, is a much less serious flaw.

(11) Well-known subject text. The more famous the name of the person or thing being anagrammed, the better the result is likely to be.

(12) Selectness. An anagram should represent your best efforts with the given letters. Don't make hundreds of readers sift through your efforts to find the good ones (or quit in disgust): do the selection yourself, though you may solicit readers' opinions on which of a couple wording options works best. Remember: if you've done twenty anagrams on the same base phrase, at least ten of them are crap. No, don't tell us how you were experimenting with different approaches, and don't add comments to explain their glories. At least ten of them are crap.

Restrain yourself. If you find it hard to choose your favorites, why are you dumping the pain on others? One small exception: the whole can be better than the sum of its parts if the anagrams cohere into a poem, story, or joke.

'Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.' - Antoine de Saint-Exupery in Wind, Sand and Stars

2.3 Where can one find anagram generators, books, and Web sites?

1. Where can I find an anagram generator?

Several programs are available, and more are being written all the time to meet specific needs. Many of our regular contributors have developed or are developing anagram generators and checkers themselves. This is only a partial list of the programs available:

Various of these programs support languages other than English, often through the use of supplemental dictionaries (as is the case with an). In addition, it is worth noting that:

Also, various anagram aids exist. One is the Maryana pattern-anchored anagrammer, describing itself as "extremely useful for cheating at Scrabble". It is available for download at http://runslinux.net/projects/margana/margana-1.1.tar.gz. In addition, several people have written anagram checker programs that determine the difference in letters of the subject text and the anagram-in-progress, letting you know how many of each letter are still available for use. Information on some anagram checkers, as well as further details on many of the anagram generators mentioned above, can be found at http://www.anagrammy.com/resources/generators.html.

2. Can you point me to an online anagram generator?

One of the best and most well-established is at http://www.wordsmith.org/, and Arrak's online anagram generator at http://www.arrak.fi/en/ag offers nine langauge options, among them the less commonly found Finnish and Latin. There are many others in addition to these (a partial list can be found at http://www.anagrammy.com/resources/online.html). However, if you plan to be doing a lot of anagramming, you might want to use anagramming software on your own computer rather than increase the load on these sites. Some anagram generation sites have been closed down or become unusable on account of high traffic.

3. What are the best books on anagrams?

Among the books recommended by posters to the group are Michaelsen's Words at Play, a highly regarded work devoting several chapters to anagrams (including their history); Palindromes and Anagrams from Dover Publications, which includes many anagrams from the pre-electronic age; the anagram collection Anagram Genius, available via the Anagram Genius site; and Robert Hale's Anagram Dictionary, most noteworthy for its section on cognate anagrams. All of these were still available for purchase as of 2007.

4. What are some good anagramming-related Web sites?

The Anagrammy site has a page with links to several pages, most of which were created by alt.anagrams members: http://www.anagrammy.com/resources/websites.html.

3 Group convention

3.1 Would you anagram my name, please?

Most certainly! It would give us great pleasure. Your name, your friends' names, and relatives' names are all welcome. Give a middle name, if possible, as well, in case the first and last name don't generate much on their own.

'All men are created anagrammable, but some are more anagrammable than others' - Earle Jones.

Sometimes, the resultant anagrams can be rude and even insulting, but please take them in the fun spirit of the newsgroup and don't take offence. For example:

Occasionally, people will find funny anagrams from their own names:

3.2 What do you do with spam in this newsgroup?

Spam includes 'Make money fast!' schemes, unsolicited commercial ads, or any other off-topic posts (advertising your Web page, long-winded diatribes about politics, and so forth). Although there has been relatively little spam in the group of late, alt.anagrams is near the beginning of the alt newsgroups alphabetically and can thus receive the first volleys of any large USENET spam run.

Like everyone else, we get annoyed by spam, but our revenge is to recycle it into an anti-spam or other related anagram - which we call a spamagram - and post it as a reply to the spam. Some also send their spamagrams to the spammers. Some of them don't like it. Our hearts bleed for them.

Spamagrams tend to be longer than most anagrams. The freedom thus allowed might be one reason that most in the group recycle the numerals in the spam also.

Here is a short example of this genre:

3.3 Is there anything that I should not post here?

Unprovoked criticism of this newsgroup is likely to get you bombarded with seriously abusive anagrams.

Requests for pirated copies of commercial anagram generators will be dealt with with the contempt that they deserve. The software author concerned is most likely to be a regular here and will not appreciate such a request. The rest of us have paid for our copies; so should you.

Posting test messages in alt.anagrams is inappropriate and will be dealt with by severely anagramming the perpetrator. Test groups, such as alt.test and misc.test, were created for test posts...

Alt.anagrams is not a binary group. Do not send any files other than text or you may end up getting anagrams like this one:

Crossposting to other newsgroups is not recommended even if you think that the anagram might interest another newsgroup. It so often leads to misunderstandings, flame wars, or off-topic threads. Apparently, not everyone appreciates anagrams as we do. Check the headers and make sure that your reply will go to alt.anagrams only.

Content of anagrams: There are no 'sacred cows' for the group. That said, the group is made up of individuals, and tastes differ. Some like to provide warnings if an anagram is likely to cause offence. A good rule to follow is to use your common sense.

The anagrams listed below are widely known and are often posted to alt.anagrams by people who have never bothered reading this FAQ.

If you have just discovered one of these anagrams and desperately want to share it with the world, PLEASE DO NOT POST IT HERE. Most alt.anagrams readers have heard these dozens of times! Almost every anagram book and Web site includes them. If you are silly enough to post them, expect a severe anagramming of your name for your misdemeanour.

Another list of well-known anagrams is at http://www.anagrammy.com/hall-of-fame/index.html, though there are several other such lists online (see the next section).

Well-known anagram riddles too become old quickly. One example is 'What ten-letter word familiar to a five- or six-year-old uses the letters ROAST MULES?' (the answer is 'somersault'). If you're not sure if a riddle is well-worn, Google or Google Groups might know.

3.4 What should I do before posting here?

If you are posting to alt.anagrams for the first time, please consider the following advice:

As one should do when first posting to any newsgroup, it is recommended that you 'lurk' (read and not post) for a week or two to get a feel for how the group works. This will give you an opportunity to understand the group's netiquette, rules, and dynamics. And, of course, the basic netiquette guidelines for USENET, and using the Internet in general, apply.

Also, you should read this FAQ in detail before first posting. In particular, you should read section 3.3 (directly above), on well-known anagrams. People often receive e-mail or find sites listing these classic anagrams and think that we will be interested. Sorry, but we know them already.

If in doubt, you should check whether an anagram is on the above-mentioned lists. It is also a good idea to check the Google Groups USENET archive (formerly Dejanews) to see whether the anagram has been posted here before. Also, there are several online anagram archives you can check to check whether you have re-discovered a classic anagram. These are listed in section 4.2.

3.5 Is there any other netiquette that I should observe here?

The usual convention, here in alt.anagrams, is to write the original name/phrase followed by an '=' and then place the anagram(s) on the line(s) under that. Witty, explanatory comments may follow each anagram on the same line, in [square brackets].

Another small piece of netiquette for posting here: if you have the answer to an anagram puzzle, please leave a good-sized 'spoiler space' (e.g., 20+ blank lines) before your answer. This hides the answer from view and allows everyone else a chance to solve the puzzle.

If you post an anagram quiz, it is helpful to add a template of the answer, in a format such as this: '---, -- -------.' You might wish to add the template after a spoiler space.

alt.anagrams is a broad-minded and pretty tolerant group. However, profane or obscene anagrams may cause offence to some members. We recommend that you add something like 'RUDE ANAGRAMS!' in the subject line.

Here are provided two rude anagrams to demonstrate the crudity to which some members of alt.anagrams will sink:

4 Anagrams across time and space

4.1 How can I find other anagramists?

You have already found one way - alt.anagrams has posters from all over the place. Those wishing to participate in an online anagram competition with monthly voting can post their work to the Web-based Anagrammy Forum at http://www.anagrammy.com/forum/.

As far as 'real-life' anagram associations are concerned, members of this group sometimes arrange small, informal gatherings. If you know of any national or international groups of anagramists, let me know. Information on them can be added to the FAQ.

4.2 Where can I find anagram archives?

In addition to the books mentioned elsewhere in this FAQ, the most well-known online anagram archives are William Tunstall-Pedoe's archive including - but not limited to - anagrams generated using his Anagram Genius software and the Anagrammy archives at http://www.anagrammy.com/archives/. The Anagram Genius archive is at http://www.anagramgenius.com/archive/.

Google Groups (formerly Dejanews) contains more-or-less complete archives of alt.anagrams posts. On a good day, the advanced search page at http://groups.google.com/advanced_search should be of use for finding anagrams on a particular topic, checking to see whether your anagram is a re-discovery, etc.

4.3 How else can I show the world my anagramming genius?

If the online fora aren't enough but you don't want to write a book, you can contribute your work to puzzle and wordplay magazines, many of which deal with anagrams. 'Wordplay' might be another helpful keyword.

If you have come up with anagrams of, say, a product name, you can follow the practice of some current alt.anagrams posters and send your work - perhaps only the more complimentary anagrams - to the company in question and, if you like, share any feedback you receive with the group.

And don't let those suggestions keep you from finding other ways to work as an ambassador for the art of anagramming.