1632: Palindrome

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I hope that somewhere in the world, "Panamax" is the last option on a "size" drop-down menu on a sex toy site.
Title text: I hope that somewhere in the world, "Panamax" is the last option on a "size" drop-down menu on a sex toy site.


A palindrome is a word, phrase, or sentence that reads the same whether you read forwards or backwards, like race car. Normally capitalization, spacing, and punctuation are ignored.

This comic is based on the famous palindrome: "A Man, A Plan, A Canal: Panama", devised by Leigh Mercer, which references the construction of the Panama Canal and is the first mentioned on the Wikipedia page for palindromes at the time this comic was released.

Megan recites a much longer palindrome for Cueball. This palindrome is based on the original, and was posted in this forum thread more than three years before the release of this comic. It is much less logical, and manages to refer to "anal Panama" (which then refers to the title text and sex toys, see below).

'Nam is an apheresis of Vietnam. See more explanation of the words in the palindrome in the Trivia section. Note that in the original version from the link above there was a comma before tables so it is two items in the list: God's 'Nam, tables, etc.

Due to its list like structure, the Panama palindrome is easily extensible by adding additional noun phrases, and some of these extensions lay claim to being "The Longest Palindrome Ever".

The title text references the maximum size of ships that can fit through the Panama Canal, which is Panamax. Randall would really enjoy if this was the last option (i.e. biggest size) on a drop-down menu on a sex toy site. For instance such a site could have a banner saying; "If you have a Panama Anus, then try our Panamax Butt plug".

In the game 1608: Hoverboard there is also a reference to the palindrome and the Panama canal with the song that Cueball sings at the ruin to the right. The first four lines of the song is the same as in the original palindrome but with the "A " changed out with Spider-, and then also Spider in front of Panama:

Cueball singing:
Gates let in
Spider boats
Flood the locks
Spiders float
Look out!
Spiders in both oceans.

The Palindrome[edit]

Although it is less logical it is indeed a palindrome:

A man, a plan, a God's 'Nam tables, nitrate, tar, tinsel, Batman's dog: Anal Panama.
Palindrome, i.e. original sentence reversed:
amanaP lanA :god s'namtaB ,lesnit ,rat ,etartin ,selbat maN' s'doG a ,nalp a ,nam A
With no spaces or other punctuation and in all lowercase:


[Cueball and Megan are walking. She holds up her arm and hand while reciting a palindrome:]
Megan: A man, a plan, a God's 'Nam tables, nitrate, tar, tinsel, Batman's dog: Anal Panama.


  • In the version posted on-line in 2012, there was an extra comma after God's 'Nam:
    • A man, a plan, a God's 'Nam, tables, nitrate, tar, tinsel, Batman's dog: Anal Panama.
    • This means that it is not God's 'Nam tables, but rather two items God's 'Nam and tables, since it is a list of items.
  • The meaning of the words:
    • These words are from the original palindrome: Man, Plan and Panama
    • But what about the rest, taking the original with the "," as mentioned above:
      • God's 'Nam - 'Nam is here short for Vietnam; God's 'Nam would refer to a Quagmire of God's creation. (The Quagmire is a figurative name of the Vietnam War).
      • Tables - can either be a piece of furniture or a data table.
      • Nitrate - a polyatomic ion with the molecular formula NO3 that are mainly produced for use as fertilizers in agriculture. But as an oxidizing agents it can be used to create explosives where the rapid oxidation of carbon compounds liberates large volumes of gases. Given the end of the sentence it could also be a reference to Amyl nitrite, for which notable side effects includes "relaxation of involuntary muscles, especially the blood vessel walls and the internal and external anal sphincter."
      • Tar - is a black mixture of hydrocarbons and free carbon. Originally referred primarily to a substance derived from the wood and roots of pine. But it has also been used in other contexts. For instance naturally occurring "tar pits", actually contain asphalt rather than tar.
      • Tinsel - Tinsel, is a type of decorative material that mimics the effect of ice, consisting of thin strips of sparkling material attached to a thread. When in long narrow strips not attached to thread, it is called "lametta", and emulates icicles. It was originally a metallic garland for Christmas decoration. The modern production of tinsel typically involves plastic, and is used particularly to decorate Christmas trees.
      • Batman's dog - Ace the Bat-Hound was the canine crime-fighting partner of Batman and Robin in DC Comics of the 1950s and 1960s.
      • Anal - relates to anus. Searching for "Anal Panama" will return links to pages with porn. This is because the most used form of Anal is in regard to Anal Sex which is often used in porn. (It is not long since another xkcd comic referred directly to porn - see 1629: Tools).
  • The meaning of the sentence:
    • There are no obvious meaning of this palindrome.
    • It seems it is not of Randall's device.
    • The original palindrome was also a list of things that led to choosing Panama.
      • A man had a plan to make a canal. He chose Panama.
    • This one is also in list form:
      • A man had a plan to use the Vietnam war with nitrate, tar and tinsel (maybe some kind of explosives with Christmas decorations), finally adding Batman's dog to get Anal Panama.

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> Megan (i.e. Randall) has created a much longer palindrome based on this original

Seems Randall didn't create the palindrome, which is also found in a forum posting on The Return of Talking Time dated May 14, 2012:

View Single Post

... unless of course that user was Randall. 08:25, 20 January 2016 (UTC)

That does not seem likely. If the user invented the palindrome is of course also impossible to say, but it seems unlikely that Randall created it. I have corrected the explanation accordingly. --Kynde (talk) 08:44, 20 January 2016 (UTC)

I found the centre of the very long palindrome that was linked to, it's the 'e' in "Hehre" which only occurs once in that 17826 word monstrousity. Easy to control F.

Edit: first e. Not second one.

-- 09:41, 20 January 2016 (UTC)

Is it really necessary to have the palindrome written forwards, without spaces, capitalised, reversed etc etc etc. --Pudder (talk) 09:58, 20 January 2016 (UTC)

No. I deleted most useless versions. Sorry, Nick818 [1] 12:31, 20 January 2016 (UTC)

Actually, there is another method to construct palindromes of arbitrary length: If X is a palindrome, then "'X' sides reversed is 'X'" is a palindrome, too. -- 10:09, 20 January 2016 (UTC)

if 'nam is an abbreviation of Vietnam, shouldn't it be capitalised? if it isn't, what is it an abbreviation of? -- 12:32, 20 January 2016 (UTC)

I'm not familiar with any type of tinsel which is attached to thread. Is this a relatively recent development, or something that is more common outside the US? Miamiclay (talk) 20:04, 20 January 2016 (UTC)

it's the only kind that's called tinsel in the UK. maybe in New England, too. -- 13:02, 21 January 2016 (UTC)

I think it should be "a god's 'Nam tables" because "God" means "the only god" and "a god" is one of many. 12:40, 20 January 2016 (UTC)

"It felt like a Napoleon's Waterloo." You'll need a high-ranking grammar nazi to explain how this works exactly, though. 16:41, 20 January 2016 (UTC)
The (grammatical) contexts are different. "Waterloo" is the name of a city, it doesn't refer to any concept so it can never be a general noun, only ever a proper noun. God however works differently, as a general noun it refers to a deity ("Zeus is a god") but as a proper noun it refers to the Abrahamic god (diversely called in different languages and religions). This isn't to say you could never use capital God when following "a". If you are referring to a god of a Judaic religion or an interpretation of God as in "In Christianity and Judaism we find a different God", then you would be right. You might also use a capitalised plural in sentences like "Yaweh is one of many Gods" (again the meaning is "interpretation of God"), much as I could say I am one of many "Marios" on this earth, however this usage requires a bit of a grammatical juggling act, and some prescriptivists might not accept it.
This is all nice and well if you consider God a proper noun (again like Jack or Yaweh) but the reasoning may completely fall apart if you consider the capitalisation as a simple honorific form. The latter interpretation is however unlikely given the usage of God in the English language. To elaborate: if you try to replace God as used in some expressions with some general noun like "guy" as referring to a certain predetermined person, you will find that in some cases a reasonable substitution would be "the guy" rather than simply "guy": e.g.: "God is all forgiving" --> "The guy is all forgiving" ("Guy is all forgiving" seems to refer to a person named Guy, rather than to a specific guy, which corroborates the proper-noun thesis).
In short "god" and "God" are kind of two different words just like "Jack" (the one who works in the cubicle next to yours, you know the one) and "jack" (the one you plug in your CD player to listen to music. What? Isn't it what's all the rage these days?), they just happen (ok, not really, they were crafted this way) to be spelt and read the same. (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
(Very sorry for the rant. Just a grammar Nazi sergeant, some things may be wrong or up for debate 17:10, 20 January 2016 (UTC)
"Can never" can never work. I hear kitchen duty on St. Helena is not pleasant. Don't forget to pack some stamps and stationery when they ship you out, I want to lick the taste of your tears off your letters. 02:47, 21 January 2016 (UTC)
In my defence, the Oxford English dictionary doesn't seem to list this acceptation. But I do agree, I shouldn't have used "can never", things change, and even if they didn't I certainly don't know all of the English dictionary. I am sure there are plenty of words, and plenty of meanings to words that I don't know of. 10:29, 31 January 2016 (UTC)
In the trivia it mentions that there is a comma between the nam and tables in the original(?) post, and by the way 'Nam is capitalized there. So is it then God's Vietnam? --Kynde (talk) 13:36, 20 January 2016 (UTC)

Just a guess about the next comic. It might very well relate to this news about a possible Planet X! Looking forward to seing if I'm right ;-) --Kynde (talk) 10:24, 21 January 2016 (UTC)

Yes I was right. And he had to delay the release as he of course did not have the comic ready when the news was published and it is quite complicated comic he made with 1633: Possible Undiscovered Planets. --Kynde (talk) 07:23, 23 January 2016 (UTC)

Apropos "(It is not long since another xkcd comic referred directly to porn - see 1629: Tools)." Or, as Tom Lehrer put it, "when correctly viewed, everything is lewd". https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iaHDBL7dVgs --RenniePet (talk) 11:55, 21 January 2016 (UTC)

Well spotted, though it was already mentioned in the trivia when you posted this comment ;-) Maybe his next, delayed?, comic, will be about Planet XXX  :-) --Kynde (talk) 16:50, 22 January 2016 (UTC)
Etymology of palindrome

The meaning of "Palindrom" :

Dromos is a way, street, highway or something similar. So Palin drom means Palin's way 23:23, 22 January 2016 (UTC)

"Palin's way" is the same as when going backwards? :D Meanwhile, a slightly more authoritative source has this to say:
"Greek palindromos running back again, from palin back, again + dramein to run; akin to Greek polos axis, pole — more at pole, dromedary" ... "First Known Use: circa 1629" 07:30, 24 January 2016 (UTC)
Maybe the first anon was making a Sarah Palin joke: she wants to move America backward to the days when… actually, I'm really not sure; she seems to be fueled by a nonspecific nostalgia for 1980s conservative nostalgia for an imagined past era, rather than nostalgia directly for any actual or imagined past era… but then it isn't my joke, I'm just guessing it was someone else's, so I don't have to explain it. :)
At any rate, the "dromos" (δρόμος) part is right; the word is a medieval or renaissance European construction from Greek, and almost certainly used "dromos" directly rather than re-deriving the same word from a distant source. -- 04:16, 8 March 2016 (UTC)

Trivia section is a bit over-the-top[edit]

Is it *really* necessary to explain what tables and tar are? I'm pretty sure like 99% of English speakers know those words (especially tables). And even if someone somehow didn't know, there's always Google! Nicoder6884 (talk) 04:36, 19 June 2022 (UTC)