I love language. As a kid, I used to read the dictionary for fun. I also was into word puzzles like the Daily Jumble.
As an adult, I developed a fondness for anagrams and palindromes. I’m pretty good at composing them. So recently, for kicks, I decided to do some anagrams of “Barack Hussein Obama.”
The first one I came up with was splendid. It is also... wrong. To wit:
Barack Hussein Obama = A sambo, a shiner, a buck
It started with “sambo,” you see. Because it’s 80 percent there in “Obama.” And then I saw the “buck.”
I knew “shine” was an old-timey insult. But after consulting the Racial Slur Database, I discovered that “shiner” was too. Boom, there it is.
On one hand, I was ashamed. I mean... I support Barack Obama.
On the other hand, this was too good not to share. He could be our first black president, and he’s got three old-fashioned racial slurs right there in his name!
I consulted an old colleague of mine, an expert on humor and a big fan of anagrams. I asked him why the anagrammatic art lends itself to such ignoble formations.
He responded: “Anagrammers are looking for funny, and funny is hostile.”
Yes! Just look at “Hillary Clinton” and imagine what you could do with a B... or a U. (I’d settle for one more T.)