A palindrome is a word or phrase that is identical whether read forward or backward. Simple examples would include the words MOM and DAD. I love palindromes and wondered if I could combine this concept with some odd geography. I soon discovered that truly every esoteric subject has a home on Wikipedia when I found a list of palindromic place names. Seriously. Someone else not only pondered this topic but compiled a list. Suddenly I feel so unoriginal.
It’s considered "fair use" if I
steal borrow this idea assuming I add value, right?
So I started with the list. Wikipedia claims the champion is Adaven, Nevada at twelve characters, but they note it doesn’t really count because someone simply made it up by reversing the name of the state.
View Larger Map
I’d say a better reason for striking it from the list is that it’s a ghost town. A small community formed in the 1870’s and the population remained at about twenty-five inhabitants for the next fifty years. It only got a name when the government opened a post office and they had to call it something. There’s not much left of Adaven today other than ruins. The post office left decades ago.
Adaven, Nevada? Please, what a joke. If we’re dealing with made up names that don’t count anyway we might as well throw Aksarben, Nebraska onto the ring. That’s right, sixteen characters blowing Adaven right out of the water. I wonder why it’s not included on the Wikipedia list? I suppose I could edit the Wikipedia page, but, well… that would require effort, and um… I guess it just feels better to gripe about its inadequacies than actually fix it.
I used to spend a lot of time in Nebraska. It’s not a particularly interesting story let’s skip that for now. From my time there though, I remember that Omaha had a well-known horse racing track and arena called Aksarben. That’s Nebraska spelled backwards.
It was located right around in here.
View Larger Map
The whole thing was designed to fund the charitable activities of a civic group called the Knights of Ak-Sar-Ben. More than 13,000 bettors flocked to the Aksarben track daily at it’s height in mid-1980’s. Ten years later it was gone, overtaken by other forms of gambling such as riverboat casinos nearby on the Iowa side of the border. The track closed in 1995 but the arena held on until 2002. Finally the whole place was torn down in 2005.
I learned all this from the AK-SAR-BEN Horse Racing History website. I guess it’s been awhile since I’ve been to Omaha. I thought the place was still there until I began researching this article.
With another failed attempt now behind me, I returned to the list.
Great word. This eleven character palindrome rolls off the tongue nicely. Wassamassaw is located in southeastern South Carolina. There’s not much information on this one either although I found an interesting entry on wordie.org — which describes itself as "Like Flickr, but without the photos" — which I found rather amusing. And Twelve Mile Circle is like MapQuest without the visitors. Love it! Anyway, they say that Wassamassaw is,
The name of a swamp in South Carolina, north of Charleston (the northern extension of the Cypress Swamp). Legend has it that the Indian meaning of the palindrome is “the worst place ever seen”.
View Larger Map
Sounds pleasant. It’s just a stone’s throw from, um, Black Tom Road. OK, let’s move right along from that little vestige of the Old South…
I’m starting to feel that perhaps this Wikipedia page has lower standards and expectations than many of the others. Next up comes Anahanahana in Madagascar, also with eleven digits. I found nothing. I think it’s made up. This is followed by Zirak Kariz in Afghanistan and Saxet, Texas, both with ten characters. They exist but neither of them amounts to much. Then it starts trailing off with fewer characters until we’re left with Å, in Norway. That’s a wonderful name for a town but the lamest of all palindromes imaginable. I’d be embarrassed to add Å to the tally. Have they no shame?
What may not be readily apparent is that I’ve truly enjoyed this list. I’m a sucker for this kind of stuff. It’s given me a good two hours of solid entertainment. Just don’t take its claims too seriously.