BORED? Play our free word games – INTERACTIVE HANGMAN
by Mike Keith
Did you know that guitar legend ERIC CLAPTON is a NARCOLEPTIC? Or that pop singer BRITNEY SPEARS is a member of the PRESBYTERIANS? Or that actress MEG RYAN hails from GERMANY? Well, actually, such observations are only true logologically: these are examples of famous people whose combined first and last names can be anagrammed into a single English word.
In addition to these three examples, which are fairly well-known among celebrity-one-word-anagram fans, here are a few more that have appeared in print. Most of these were published in The Enigma; a few were collected via e-mail correspondence.
(All single words in this article can be found in Webster's Third Unabridged.)
Also well-known but still remarkable is 1970s baseball player Al Kaline, whose name becomes a word (alkaline) by simply joining the parts with no rearrangement.
Inspired by these, I set out – with some computer assistance – to find additional examples of this genre. We can distinguish between two kinds: those that are just transposals, with little or no semantic connection between the word and the celebrity, and those that have some flavor of the true anagram (i.e., with some appositeness between the word and the person).
First, some plain transposals:
Of course, the meaning of "celebrity" is somewhat subjective, but I tried to stick with people that are at least well-known in their field. For instance, you may not have heard of Ron Necciai, but die-hard baseball fans know him as holding the all-time record for the most number of strikeouts in a professional game (27).
And now a few celebrity anagrams, in which the word is at least partially related to the person involved:
At least we hope that Robert Alda did some Shakespeare at some point in his career! Note that Art Rochester's very apt anagram uses the alternative –er spelling (still in Web3, though). Of these, the last three are quite remarkably appropriate.
The longest one-word celebrity anagrams we have encountered are 13 letters in length (a tie between Britney Spears, Eddie Charlton, and Ingrid Steeger). Word Ways readers are challenged to try and beat this record.
If we drop the (somewhat fuzzy and subjective) "celebrity" requirement, and just use the names of ordinary but real people, how much better can be done? The longest we were able to find is Carolyn McAlister (16 letters), a transposal of the boldface Web3 word MACROCRYSTALLINE. The best 17-letter near miss I came across is Herbert Eisenstadt (BITTERHEARTEDNESS - a reasonable coinage, but not in Web3 or OED). That both of these people actually exist is attested to by the Yahoo yellow pages directory (http://people.yahoo.com). My ordinary-people search was fairly extensive but by no means exhaustive, so it is possible that these records can be bettered.
In the above article the abbreviations "Web3" and "OED" refer to the dictionaries "Webster's Third New International Dictionary" and "the Oxford English Dictionary" respectively.
© 2000 Ross Eckler (Editor, Word Ways).
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