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Celebrate Dylan’s Nobel Prize with Weird Al’s Palindromes

Are Bob Dylan lyrics literature? Are palindromes poetry? Does it matter?

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Flashback to 2003, when Weird Al Yankovic released Poodle Hat, his eleventh studio album, with covers of—are you ready for a nostalgia trip?—Eminem's "Lose Yourself," Nelly's "Hot in Herre," Avril Lavigne's "Complicated," and the Backstreet Boys' "I Want It That Way." All the way down at track number ten was "Bob," something Yankovic calls a "style parody," where he's not covering a specific song but riffing off an artist's style.

For "Bob," it's the country-tinged folk guitar and mysterious lyrics of American hero, poet, and now, Nobel Laureate, Bob Dylan. Doing his best impression of that classic, rough and occasionally ridiculous voice, Weird Al spins a folk song out of palindromes.

Rusty on the word-game terminology? A palindrome is a word or phrase that reads the same forward and backward. Examples: "racecar," "dumb mud," "evil olive," and "Golf? No sir, prefer prison flog."

Or, from the song:

"I, man, am Regal, a German am I

Never odd or even,

If I had a Hi-Fi"

Every line is a palindrome. It's incredible that Yankovic keeps the lyrics' rhythm and rhyming so tight when he has such strict restraints on what he can write. As you can guess, the song doesn't make a lot of sense, but that makes it especially fun when it actually does: "Go hang a salami, I'm a lasagna hog!" he sings at the end. Or,

"Won't lovers revolt now?

Race fast safe car

Pa's a sap

Ma is as selfless as I am"

The video for "Bob" is a parody of Dylan's video for "Subterranean Homesick Blues," and it helps to see each line on the cards. But to really appreciate the palindromes, I recommend reading the lyrics on Genius so you can take the time to reverse each line in your head and be amazed over and over.



Palindromes are a word game that people, as they do, have taken to extremes. A guy named Dan Hoey wrote a 543-word palindrome with a computer program in 1984. Others have written entire poems that are one, long palindrome.

XKCD drew a comic:

XKCD.com

And here are some of the best palindromes from Neil/Fred's Gigantic List of Palindromes, because I can't help myself:

#450: "Yawn. Madonna fan? No damn way."

#380: "Star comedy by Democrats."

#42: "And we saw a Jawa sew DNA."

#256: "No cab, no tuna nut on bacon."

#45: "Are we not drawn onward to new era?"

#310: "Poor Dan is in a droop."

#180: "I saw desserts; I'd no lemons; alas, no melon. Distressed was I."

Now you can throw that many more palindromes into your next conversation.

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