Anagram Definition

Anagram is a form of word play in which letters of a word or phrase are rearranged in such a way that a new word or phrase is formed.

Anagram is formed by using exactly the same letters of the original word but with a different arrangement. For example, the letters in the word “Shakespeare” can be rearranged to form an anagram “Keshareapes”. However, an anagram in literature is not a nonsensical arrangement of words as in the previous example. Rather, it aims at parodying, criticizing or praising its subject i.e. the original word. For instance, a most famous anagram for “William Shakespeare” is “I am a weakish speller”.

Common Anagram Examples

We play with words in our everyday life to create anagrams that are funny and witty. Usually, Anagrams are most interesting when they are relevant to each other. Some hilarious anagram examples are given below:

  • Mother-in-law = Hitler woman
  • Debit card = Bad credit
  • Dormitory = Dirty Room
  • The earthquakes = The queer shakes
  • Astronomer = Moon starrer
  • Punishments = Nine Thumps
  • School master = The classroom

Example of Anagram in Literature

Examples #1

In literature the use of anagrams is most commonly connected to pseudonyms where the writers jumble the letters of their original names to create interesting pseudonyms for themselves. Below are some famous examples:

  • Jim Morrison = Mr. Mojo Risin
  • Edward Gorey = Ogdred Weary
  • Dave Barrey = Ray Adverb
  • Glen Duncen = Declan Gunn
  • Damon Albarn = Dan Abnormal

Examples #2

We see anagrams being employed by several writers in titles of their works and in naming their character giving them a touch of wit and mystery. Look at the examples below:

  • “Hamlet” by William Shakespeare is an anagram of “Amleth”, a Danish prince.
  • Vladamir  Nabakov in his novel “Lolita” presents a character “Vivian Darkbloom” which is an anagram of his name.
  • J.K. Rowling in her “Harry Potter Series” uses an anagram “I am Lord Voldemort” for her character Tom Marvolo Riddle to reveal the two different identities of the villain.
  • The two main characters of a novel “The Rebel Angels”, Claire McCleethy Hester Asa Moore, use anagrams to give themselves different names i.e. “They Call Me Circe” and “Sarah Rees-Toome” respectively.

Examples #3

In Dan Brown’s novel “Da Vinci Code”, the curator of the museum “Jacques Saunière” wrote the following inscription with his blood:

“O, Draconian devil!
Oh, lame saint!
So dark the con of Man”

These were actually the clues related to “Da Vinci” and were decoded as “O, Draconian devil!” = “Leonardo Da Vinci”, “Oh, lame saint!” = “The Mona Lisa” and “So dark the con of Man” = “Madonna of the Rocks”.

In the same novel, we see a character “Leigh Teabing”, the Holy Grail expert, who invents an apt name for himself by anagramming the names of the authors of “The Holy Blood and The Holy Grail”: Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh, and Henry Lincoln.

Examples #4

Jonathan Swift had an uncanny skill of inventing new and unusual names for his fictitious characters and places by using anagrammatic method. We find interesting examples of anagrams in Jonathan Swift’s novel “Gulliver’s Travels”. For instance, “Brobdingnag”, a land occupied by giants, is an anagram of three words: big, grand and noble excluding the syllable “-le”. Similarly, “Tribinia” and “Langden”, the two other kingdoms traveled by Gulliver during his voyage, are anagrams of Britain and England respectively.

Function of Anagram

The above discussion reveals that anagrams are commonly used in both everyday life and literature. They, if relevant, provide instances of wit and humor. Additionally, this word play presents itself as a recreational activity in the form of word puzzles (cross words, upwords, scrabble, etc.) to sharpen the deciphering skills of kids as well as adults.

In literature, authors may use anagrams to hide their identity by coining a pseudonym for themselves but still giving interesting clues to keen observers. Similarly, the anagrammatic names of characters and places in a literary piece add layers of meanings to the otherwise nonsense names and therefore further motivate and develop interest in the readers. In mystery or detective novels and short stories, anagrams play a vital role in proving clues to unfold a mystery.

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3 comments for “Anagram

  1. ratanpriya
    February 10, 2016 at 7:03 pm

    Interesting read. Very well explained; just what I was looking for!

  2. Olusegun
    April 18, 2017 at 8:46 am

    understandable, it is related to inversion

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