An ambigram is a word, art form, or other symbolic representation whose elements retain meaning when viewed or interpreted from a different direction, perspective, or orientation. An ambigram is not to be confused with a palindrome which is a word, phrase, or sentence that can be read the same backward or forward, such as the word ‘noon’, or the phrase, ‘Madam, in Eden, I’m Adam.‘ Ambigrams are a favorite among the creative talents of tattoo, graffiti, and logo artists, and they go very far back in history.
A mirror-image ambigram is a design that can be read when reflected in a mirror, usually as the same word or phrase both ways. Ambigrams that form different words when viewed in the mirror are also known as glass door ambigrams because they can be printed on a glass door to be read differently when entering or exiting.
Although the term was recently coined by the American scholar of cognitive science, Douglas Hofstadter, the existence of ambigrams has been attested since at least the first millennium, where the first sator square palindrome was found in the ruins of the ancient Roman city of Pompeii (79 AD).
Ambigrams rose in recent popularity as a result of author Dan Brown’s bestseller, Angels & Demons, and the amibigram used on the book’s cover. The DVD release also contained a bonus chapter called “This is an Ambigram.”
Although the words spelled by most ambigrams are relatively short in length, one DVD cover for the movie, The Princess Bride, featured a rotational ambigram out of the words “Princess Bride” that could be viewed right side up or upside down.
Looking for more fun with words? Check out these posts about pangrams, palindromes, portmanteaux, and mondegreens! You might also be interested in reading more about the sator square and the earliest crossword puzzles!
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