Joho the Bloggandhi Archives - Joho the Blog

February 22, 2009

Connected by ambigrams

Punya Mishra blogs a “story that connects cognitive scientist Douglas Hofstader, Oriya writer and poet J. P. Das, and the father of non-violence Mahatma Gandhi.” It contains some of my favorite things: Reflections on the nature of the Web, “serendipitous connectability,” and Scott Kim-style ambigrams.

Ambigrams are words printed in such a way that they can be read in ambiguous ways. Sometimes they can be read backwards and forwards (even though they’re not palindromes), sometimes they can be inverted or flipped, sometimes they contain other words (e.g., “true” written in such a way that you can also read it as “false”). Scott Kim‘s book Inversions has long been a favorite of mine, and the current issues of the relatively obscure journal WordWays has another bunch.

Punya recounts how it came to his attention that none other than Mahatma Gandhi worked on writing his name so that it could be read at one and the same time in English or in Hindi. (He has provided a scan of the pages of the book by an Indian civil servant that discloses this.) The path to this discovery is unlikely, reaching through strangers, hyperlinks and family. And it leads to an ambigram by Gandhi!

(Note that I did indeed find this page by ego-surfing my own name, since Punya cites a book of mine. But, rather than attributing this to my own narcissism, let’s just attribute it to what Punya calls serendipitious connectability.) [Tags: ]


WowTattoos has ambigrams for over 1,000 names, and a generator for words it doesn’t have. They’re not as beautifully clever as Scott Kim’s — they tend to look like gothic text — but it’s still pretty impressive.