Columns — 30 January 2018

Published January 17, 2018

BY MARILYN DUNCALFE

It doesn’t get any better than this. A 6 year old boy from Victoria BC is on the cusp of gaining full recognition for the brand new word he coined. Lovers of words – or logophiles as they say in Greek – everywhere are cheering him on.

Here is how it all came to be. Then 5 year old Levi Budd was a passenger in the family vehicle and canny little fellow that he is, noticed and read the stop sign and commented to his parents that s-t-o-p spelled backwards formed a new word p-o-t-s. He then posed the important question, inquiring as to whether there was a special word to describe this situation.

As it transpired, there was not. Clearly a word lover from an early age, he had already been introduced to the concept of the palindrome, which is the term most commonly used to describe a word that forms the same word both ways, such as noon, stats, bib or pop.

 So the genesis of the idea was formed. Young Levi and his father, historian and author, Robert “Lucky” Budd came up with the term “levidrome” to describe a word that forms a different valid word when spelled out from back to front, such as pool/loop, Marc/cram, flow/wolf, tubed/debut or star/tars.  (the first letter e  is pronounced as in “levity” or “levitate”).

Sentences are harder. A few examples from the official Levidrome List include “Dennis sinned” and “Evil Dennis sinned live”. Clearly not as simple to concoct as the palindromic classic, “Madam, I’m Adam”.

They felt that a new word was required to describe this clearly observable phenom, as the only one they could find in their research was “emordilap”, which is the backwards spelling of palindrome and unwieldy in both written and spoken English.

So a viral campaign was launched introducing the levidrome. A youtube video featuring the precocious 6 year old explaining the concept is well-worth the view. Fellow Canadian William Shatner tweeted about the levidrome to the Oxford Dictionary and things really snowballed.

Thus far, Merriam Webster has recognized it in their open source dictionary, which is a start. The Oxford Dictionary has featured a video clip with Rebecca Jaganaru an assistant editor, explaining their process for new word selection.

 In the clip, she indicates that they are watching the word levidrome to see if people start to use the word beyond the dad’s social media campaign. She further states that “in a year or so” if the term has fallen into popular usage it may well make the cut and be added to the Oxford Dictionary. As the English language is constantly evolving, new words are regularly added. Some recent additions include “cat café”, “wine o’clock” and “mansplaining”. If the levidrome makes it into the Oxford, it will be a clear indication that the launch of the word has successfully spread into common use.

As a show of support for this venture, I have written this piece and also happily added levidrome to the dictionary of the computer on which it was written.  Three cheers for Levi. 

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Jennifer Parsons

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