Friday, June 8, 2012

Still Life With Robin: Thin Ill-Writ Foibles

By Pen Gig Or

I’m a big fan of quiz shows, and have just discovered a new one, called Ask Me Another, on NPR.  It’s something of a cross between Jeopardy, Name That Tune, and Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell Me (which currently holds the title --in my estimation, at least-- of the best radio quiz show not just on NPR, not just on the radio, but anywhere, anytime, ever).  One of the charming little features of this new show, however, is its closing credits. After each staffmember’s name is read, it is immediately followed by a clever anagram of the letters. The host of the show is Ophira Eisenberg, Her Ripe Begonias. The musical director is Jonathan Coulton, Thou Jolt a Cannon, and two of the writers are John Chaneski, Oh Heck Ninjas, and David Levinson Wilk, Invalid Kind Vowels.

Those anagrammed credits are sweet compensation for the impending loss of another of my NPR favorites, Car Talk, whose hosts, Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers (a/k/a Tom and Ray Magliozzi) have just announced their retirement after 25 years on the air -- and whose show also closed with a string of funny credits. Despite my complete lack of interest in cars, I always enjoyed the show, but I knew the part I’d miss the most would be its end-of-show nods to illustrious names such as Director of Pollution Control Maury Missions,  Accounts Payable Clerk (Moscow Office) Dasha Chekhov,  Local News Reporter Phil Mataleven, and of course, the distinguished counselors from the vaunted law firm of Dewey, Cheetham & Howe.  For the complete roster, see Car Talk Staff Credits

The thing about the anagram endings is that this is a game anyone can play. I immediately started anagramming my own name and came up with Gingery Bop and Bigger Pony. Then I discovered the easy way to get hundreds of other combinations: via the internet of course, on the Instant Anagram Generator of,  My name has 251 legitimate word combinations. If I toss in my rather bland middle name, Anne, suddenly I’m up to 13,889 combinations.

Next up, I experimented with the the name of another word puzzle devotee, my mother Florence Isbell, whose name can be recombined in 6,092 ways, the most apt of which is Rebels Icons Fell (reflecting her lifetime of work for civil rights and civil liberties organizations that challenge the status quo).  After that, I suggested to my daughter that she run her name through the anagram generator, and she replied that not only was she familiar with that website but added that of the 93,751 different combinations it produced, she still preferred the one she created on her own as an eleven-year-old: Brilliance Roared (from Claire Robin Adler). She created that one simply by rearranging the letters in pencil on a sheet of paper.

Wanting to branch out beyond the family, I next tried a couple of political names. Our mayor Vincent Gray can be turned into Tyrannic Veg, Craven Tying, Tracing Envy, or Very Canting; these are just four out of the 109 possible arrangements shown on the site. Our more colorful former mayor, Marion Barry, anagrammatically could be: Ram Bra Irony, Army Rain Bro, Roar In My Bar, and Mr. Ya Or Brain.

If you have five or ten minutes to waste in an amusing way, try your own name. If you come up with anything you’d like us all to see, post it as a comment at Thin Ill-Writ Foibles -- I mean Still Life With Robin at


Still Life With Robin by Peggy Robin is published on the Cleveland ParkListserv and All Life Is Local on Fridays.

1 comment:

  1. As a shopping junkie who recently finished a year without clothes shopping (seriously, it's a support service for practicing retail abstinence), during which I fell off the wagon more than a few times (is calling tennis clothes "equipment" cheating?), I found this anagram of my name:

    Bazaar Ebb I Err