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Either way, ‘A nut for a jar of tuna’

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COFFEE WITH KEITH

We just finished a unique stretch of days, 10 of them in fact, where it didn’t matter if you read left to right or right to left in identifying the calendar date.

That is, as long as you used the American numerical system.

Check it out.

It started on 9-10-19.

Reverse it. It’s 9-10-19.

It ended yesterday, 9-19-19.

Reverse it. It’s 9-19-19.

And something really cool occured twice on Thursday, whether we knew it or not, as we experienced a pair of longer or double palindromes.

At 19 minutes and 19 seconds after 9 a.m. and 9 p.m., it was 9:19.19 on 9-19-19.

That doesn’t happen every day.

A palindrome is a word, phrase or number that reads the same backward as forward. Punctuation and spaces between the words or lettering is allowed.

Some palindrome word examples are “kayak,” “level,” “rotator” and “civic.”

There are some phrase examples, too. … “Top spot,” “My gym,” and “Was it a cat I saw?”

Doing a little research, I found out the longest single-word palindrome in the English language, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, is the onomatopoeic “tattarrattat,” coined by James Joyce in Ulysses (1922) as the sound made when a fist meets a door.

Hey, don’t “knock” it.

The longest palindrome in use today worldwide is said to be the Finnish word “saippuakivikauppias,” which means soapstone vendor.

That one is tough to spell either forward or backward, let alone trying to pronounce it.

Additional research revealed there has been a Palindrome Week every year since 2011. And it’s been noted that every century has nine years with 10 Palindrome Days in a row. These years are always in the second decade of the century.

It may also be worth noting the palindrome pattern doesn’t hold if you write your dates with the day first, as the Brits and Aussies do.

Tried it – 20-9-19 doesn’t work.

So, those folks will have to make their own palindromes in their own time.

Thinking about palindromes got me to wondering about left to right writing versus right to left.

Hello again, Internet …

It is acknowledged that writing began in about 3500 B.C., or at least that’s when scholars believe the writing system known as cuneiform began to emerge. Other forms of writing, like Egyptian and Indian hieroglyphics, predate cuneiform, but cuneiform was different because it started to use abstract shapes instead of symbols to represent sounds. To continue, the biggest advantage of using letters instead of symbols – cuneiform – is how many figures you need. If every word was a symbol, we would need a slew of symbols. But because we can make sounds out of letters and those sounds correspond to the words we speak, an alphabet becomes much easier to use. As easy as A-B-C, right? Early on in its development, cuneiform was written from left to right. And it stuck. It has been hypothesized it is because right-handed scribes would smudge their work if they wrote from right to left. There is little historical evidence for this hypothesis, but try it and see how difficult it is. I did. Smudge. How and when specific languages started writing from right to left remains under debate, my research revealed. For example, Persian (which is a descendant of cuneiform) is written from right to left. And both Arabic and Hebrew came from the Proto-Canaanite alphabet, which was written from right to left. Proto-Canaanite was also sometimes written in a hybrid form called boustrophedon, in which the directions of the lines alternate. One line is written right to left, and the next line is written from left to right. This is easier on the scribe, but not necessarily on the reader. It all sounds pretty confusing to me. Imagine trying to read a newspaper that way! Egad! And we won’t even get into the fact that because they are based on characters rather than letters, Chinese and Japanese can be written horizontally or vertically. ... So, we’re finished with calendar palindromes for a while, be it forward or backward, left to right or right to left. Not a palindrome, but I’m going to close this column with a phrase my father told me a long, long time ago. It really doesn’t mean anything, but if you look both ways before you cross the street … “Turn right and you’ll be left. Turn left and you’ll be right.” I have no idea why I put that in here, but maybe my dad wanted to be a NASCAR driver. However, I am reminded of what the first man who walked on this earth said to the first woman when they were introduced: “Madam, I’m Adam.” As always, thanks for reading.