What is an Anagram

What is an Anagram

An anagram is a type of word play that creates a word, phrase, or name formed by rearranging the letters of another word or phrase. This is usually done by using all the original letters exactly once. For example, the word anagrams itself can be rearranged as nag a ram.

Anagram allows the writers to introduce mystery and a little interactive fun in their writing so that the readers can decode the actual word on their own and discover a depth of meaning to the writing.

Examples of Anagrams

Debit Card – Bad credit

Schoolmaster – The classroom

Dormitory – Dirty Room

Clint Eastwood – Old West action

Madam Curie – Radium came

Silent – Listen

William Shakespeare – I am a weakish spellerWhat is an Anagram

Examples of Anagrams in Literature

In literature, anagrams are commonly used as names of characters and imaginary places as well as for the title of literary works.

The title and the protagonist “Hamlet” by Shakespeare is an anagram of ‘Amleth’, a Danish prince.

In Jonathan Swift’s “Gulliver’s Travels”, place names like Brobdingnag, Tribinia and Langden are anagrams of big-grand-noble, Britain, and England, respectively.

In J.K Rowling’s “Harry Potter”, an anagram is used to name the two identities of the antagonist. Tom Marvolo RiddleI am Lord Voldemort

Vladamir Nabakov in his novel “Lolita” uses the anagram of his own name, Vivian Darkbloom, as a name of a character.

In Samuel Butler’s novel “Erewhon”, Erewhon is the anagram of nowhere.

Authors also use anagrams to create pseudonyms for themselves. For example, François Rabelais used the pseudonym Alcofribas Nasier.

Function of Anagrams

The above examples illustrate that anagrams are used in both everyday speech and literature. They are examples of wit and humor.

In literature, authors use anagrams to create names of characters and places; these names add more meanings to the otherwise nonsense names. Thus, the use of anagrams further motivates and creates interest in readers. This is especially true in mystery and detective novels where anagrams play a crucial role in proving clues to unravel a mystery.

For example, in Dan Brown’s novel “Da Vinci Code”, the museum curator writes the following inscriptions while dying.

“O, Draconian devil!

Oh, lame saint!

So dark the con of Man”

Each line has an anagram and all three anagrams point to da Vinci. (O, Draconian devil!” = “Leonardo Da Vinci”, “Oh, lame saint!” = “The Mona Lisa” and “So dark the con of Man” = “Madonna of the Rocks”) These anagrams act as clues to solve the mystery.

Anagram – Summary

  • An anagram is a type of word play which creates a word, phrase, or name formed by rearranging the letters of another word or phrase, using original letters exactly once.
  • Anagrams are commonly used in literature as well as in common speech.
  • Anagrams can serve as a game, a puzzle as well as a literary device that showcases the wit and intelligence of the writer.

Image Courtesy:

“Tim Hortons logo – anagram” by Chris Dlugosz (CC BY 2.0) via Flickr

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