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The Globe and Mail
Web Sites Are Wise Bets For Anagrams

by Eric Shackle
Saturday, March 27, 1999

The 15 letters forming "The Globe and Mail," can be rearranged as "hot, blamed, genial." Or else "hot, maligned, able." Or "I am a hellbent god." Or "am a noble delight."

President Boris Yeltsin enjoys "endless insobriety trip," while "the end of the world is nigh" becomes a frantic "down this hole -- frightened!" And "eleven plus two" amazingly uses the same letters as "twelve plus one."

These are just a few of the mind-boggling anagrams that Web browsers can find on the Internet. Computer-generated anagrams are becoming longer, cleverer and funnier as special software, first written in 1988, has steadily improved.

Here are two astonishing recent ones:

Original phrase: "That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind. (Neil A. Armstrong)."

Anagram: "A thin man left planet, ran, makes large stride, pins a flag on moon. On to Mars!"

Original phrase: "To be or not to be: that is the question, whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune" (Shakespeare).

Anagram: "In one of the Bard's best-thought-of tragedies, our insistent hero, Hamlet, queries on two fronts about how life turns rotten."

Anagrams have a long history. In the 13th century, Jewish mystics called cabalists thought that reciting letters from the Hebrew alphabet in different orders could create human beings from dust and work miracles.

In the early 17th century, Louis XIII appointed a Royal Anagrammist at a fabulous salary. (An English-speaking anagrammist is someone who, if asked to name the four points of the compass, replies "Thorn, Shout, Seat and Stew.")

Anagrams took a quantum leap forward in 1988 when the first stand-alone anagram-generating software was written. The art of producing a memorable anagram these days lies in a person's ability to extract a telling phrase from a huge volume of irrelevance -- to spot a gem in a mountain of mullock.

Britain's -- and possibly the world's -- leading anagrammist is a gifted and highly qualified computer boffin, William Tunstall-Pedoe, 30, of Cambridge, who commands fees ranging from about $600 (250£) to about $1,600 (800£) a day as a consultant to industry.

Graduating from Cambridge University with first-class honours in computer science, he worked with several leading U.S. universities and computer companies, and developed a complete commercial chess-playing program, Cyber Chess.

Returning to England, he turned his attention to the difficult and intriguing challenge of using a computer to find anagrams from words, phrases and names. In 1988 he developed Anagram Genius software. Although many people have written anagram-generating programs, Mr. Tunstall-Pedoe claims that none of his competitors' programs can compare with the capabilities of his software.

On the other side of the Atlantic, one of the leading anagram servers is Wordsmith, a Web site set up by U.S. computer guru Anu Garg (whose name is not an anagram), who works as an Internet engineer with AT&T Laboratories.

He created Internet Anagram Server (I, Rearrangement Servant) which, like Britain's Anagram Genius, automatically supplies lists containing hundreds of anagrams based on the names of Internet browsers who e-mail their requests to the Web -- thousands every day. Both services are free.

Entranced by "the music and magic of words," Mr. Garg, through his Wordsmith site, e-mails A Word a Day to more than 160,000 linguaphile subscribers in some 145 countries. He also runs an E-mail Address of the Month Club.

He is a man of many parts. He lists his interests and hobbies as reading, writing, juggling, unicycling and collecting quotes. His favorite quote: "If your ship hasn't come in, swim out to it."

What is it about anagrams that fascinates so many people around the world? Mr. Tunstall-Pedoe says that 12 years after first becoming interested in them, he still gets excited when he spots a new gem. Mr. Anu says, "All life's wisdom can be found in anagrams. They never lie."

Finally, Stifle is a very strange word. It's an anagram of itself.


Here are some of the best anagrams, most of them displayed on William Tunstall-Pedoe's Anagram Genius (http://www.AnagramGenius.com/server.html) and Anu Garg's Wordsmith (https://wordsmith.org/anagram) The two Web sites are frequently updated, and both will anagram your e-mailed name quickly and without charge. A third site is Main Sanitary Nag --Anagram Insanity (http://www.avatartech.com/anagram.html)

Word/Phrase -- Anagram

Raiders of the Lost Ark -- Ford, the real star, is OK

The Towering Inferno -- Not worth fire engine

Tony Blair MP -- I'm Tory, Plan B

William Shakespeare -- I am a weakish speller

President Clinton of the USA -- To copulate, he finds interns

Dormitory -- Dirty room

Evangelist -- Evil's agent

Desperation -- A rope ends it

The Morse Code -- Here come dots

Slot machines -- Cash lost in 'em

Animosity -- Is no amity

Mother-in-law -- Woman Hitler

Snooze alarms -- Alas! No more Zs

Alec Guinness -- Genuine class

Semolina -- Is no meal

The public art galleries -- Large picture halls, I bet

A decimal point -- I'm a dot in place

The Earthquakes -- That queer shake

Contradiction -- Accord not in it

The best things in life are free -- Nail-biting refreshes the feet.

Finally, Stifle is a very strange word. It's an anagram of itself.

Copyright © 1999 The Globe and Mail
(Source URL http://www.theglobeandmail.com/gam/Focus/19990327/FC27ANA.html)
Saturday, March 27, 1999

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