Cumberland Advisors Commentary – Palindromes

Author: David R. Kotok, Post Date: January 24, 2021

When I was in the first grade, my teacher said, “David, do you know what you are?” She was reading my last name. In the second grade, the same thing happened. By the fifth grade, I could deliver the lecture: “I’m a palindrome.”


The word originates with the Greek palindromos, which means running back again.

A palindrome is a word or a phrase (includes numbers) that spells the same way in both directions. Simple examples are dad, mom, level, Otto, toot. The usual rule is that punctuation doesn’t count, just letters and numbers.

Some palindromes have achieved fame.

“A man, a plan, a canal, Panama.” This one seems to have been hatched by Leigh Mercer, a British wordplay expert and recreational mathematics enthusiast who wrote a puzzle column in the Oxford University publication Notes and Queries (

“Able was I ere I saw Elba” is a famous palindrome but is unlikely to have been spontaneously uttered by Napoleon, since he spoke French, although it could be, I suppose, that he blurted it out in English.

Palindromes can be fun.

“Ana, nab a banana!”

“Go hang a salami. I’m a lasagna hog!”

A funeral director might exclaim, “Stiff fits!” A warehouseman might ask, “Was it a rat I saw?” (Hat tip to Jon Agee, who has penned several books on palindromes. See

Craig Hansen, who also wrote a book on palindromes (Ana, Nab a Banana: A Book of Palindromes,, included one that is a math question: “X-Six is one? No. X is one? No. None? No. O, So now, T-six is two? No. So, one? No. NONE? No. Six? ONE? No! Six is X.”

My personal favorite: “Straw? No. Too stupid a fad. I put soot on warts.”

Now, here’s USA Today on palindrome dates: Hint: A very significant one just occurred.

David R. Kotok
Chairman of the Board & Chief Investment Officer
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