No Gnus Is Good Gnus

By Puder, Jim | Word Ways, February 2002 | Go to article overview

No Gnus Is Good Gnus


Puder, Jim, Word Ways


A gnu is a large, stocky antelope whose seeming ambition is to be a cow. Distinctive for its bizarre rocking-horse running motion, this oddly-formed even-toed ungulate has been described as being made up of parts left over from other animals, an assessment that is probably unfair to other animals. But although their droll appearance may endear gnus (or "gnu", either pluralization is correct) to the public at large, few palindromists are ever charmed to find a gnu noshing nonchalantly in their word gardens; indeed, their more usual reaction to such a discovery is to, well, have a gnu.

The problem is that whenever a gnu chances to materialize in a palindrome (which they do with depressing frequency), the whole thing at once degenerates into opera bouffe. A palindromist might have labored for hours to fashion a poetic composition of refined sentiment, but let an unavoidable "gnu" turn up toward the end, and all becomes travesty. Few moods are gnu-proof; note, for example, the way in which the attempt to forge an ambience of Central America intrigue in this Panamadrome is completely undermined by the anomalous intrusions of a gnu and its bucolic traces: "A man apt, a ham, a nap, a gnu (?), dungeon, a capital, a gat, a gal, a tip, a canoe, gnu dung (??), a Panama hat: Panama!" Heartbreaking, isn't it?

In that instance, a gnu infiltrated the palindrome ensconced as an inmate in "dungeon." Other "ung" words often favored by gate-crashing gnus are bung, bungalow, bungee, bungle, dung, dungarees, fungal, gung, hung, Hungary, hunger, Jung, jungle, lounge, lung, lunge, pung, rung, sung, tungsten, young, unsung, plus a number of words beginning with "ung-," and various -d, -ed, -r, -er, -s and -es forms of these words. ("Sung," used as the alternative past tense of "sing," is a vehicle especially popular with the obtruding artiodactyls.) Another way in which gnus may occur is when a word ending in "-un" happens to be followed by a word beginning with "g." Common "-un" words that generate gnus in this manner include bosun, bun, dun, faun, fun, gun, Hun, nun, pun, rerun, run, spun, stun, sun and tun. Needless to say, palindromists are inclined to regard all such words as these with dark suspicion. The fifty-odd palindromes and two reversals that follow illustrate many, but by no means all, of the avenues (avegnus?) by which gnus are known to gain entry into reversible writings. Immediately below, herded together in momentary alphabetical order, is a mob of shorter gnudromes:

Ay! No tungsten-parts trap nets gnu, Tonya! + "Dias, no jungle has Sahei gnu!" Jon said. + "Do gnus, stung, "Yasser asks Ares," say `Gnuts!', Sun God?" + Gnu doo: dung. + "Gnus, Art, amuse us--never odd or even!" Sue Sumatra sung. + "Gnus gnashed as gnu solos ululating `odd-dog' Nita-Lulu solo sung; sad, eh?" sang Sung. + Hot new "gun tsar" Ira, stung, went "Oh!" + Marc's tip: "As an obese gnu lunges, ebon as a pit, scram!" + Nay! Rub not, Sal, gnus--it is un-Glastonburyan! + Nell, a "Net gnu," "hung ten," Allen? + "Nice `zcz'," snide "Big Gnu" Jung gibed, "in `Szczecin'!" + No dun gem, Adam saw, was Madame Gnu, Don! + "No, Nadia, Sara may not see gnu bungee!" stony Amara said anon. + "Oh, Norah's gnus gnarled if Fidel rang," sung Sharon Ho. + Stung, unsung, tuned-in: see snide "nut gnu" snug nuts! + Ungarbed ere we were--even, Eden Eve, ere we!--were, Debra, gnu! + Ungava, Jon sees, sees no Java gnu. + Ungroomed or not, Lady Dalton rode moor gnu. (Come again?) + Young gnu ... Oy! + Zulu nun Gwen Wen knew new gnu Nu, Luz?

Most palindromes longer than a line on a page seem deserving of paragraphs of their own. But despite their longer wheelbases, the new 2002 Gnudromes displayed below are still your basic no-frills, economy class gnumobile:

"Debar gnu goddesses?? Boffo!" yawned Ogden. "O.K., in a gnu herd a padre hung an ikon! ... Ed? Go `den'--way off, obsessed dog! ... Ungrab, Ed!"

"Del!" fit Selim snarled. …

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