Every once in a while, even if you’re the most educated human being on the planet, your kid will hit you with a question that you just can’t answer. The mind of a child is capable of wondering the wildest things that you, with your overly educated noggin, will never think of. That’s exactly what happened to six-year-old Levi Budd’s parents when he asked what you call a word that reads one thing forward and something else backwards. Stumped.
As his dad explains in a YouTube video, Levi has always been fascinated by language and coming up with palindromes (a word, phrase, or sequence that reads the same backward as forward – think “racecar” and “madam”). One day, when Levi was five years old, he noticed that when read backwards, “stop” makes the word “pots” and vice versa so he asked his mom what you call a word like that. Levi’s mom couldn’t answer, but like a good stumped parent, she looked it up when she got home. Only, there actually isn’t a word in the dictionary for that. The English language has failed us all.
So taking a page out of Shakespeare’s book, the family decided to come up with a new word. They propose calling these words that read one thing one way and another thing backwards “levidromes” after the boy who realized the need for the word.
When the family contacted Merriam-Webster to see if they could get their new word in the dictionary as an official addition to the language, the publication informed them that getting a word in the dictionary is as simple as making it popular enough that people will recognize it as a word. That’s how we got words like LOL, OMG and twerking in the official dictionary. The Budd family is well on their way to getting that recognition.
The video was seen by William Shatner, who emailed and tweeted the Oxford English Dictionary in November appealing to them to add “levidome” to their dictionary. The OED then responded to the Budd family’s video with one of their own, encouraging the family to keep promoting the word’s popularity.
Dearest @OxfordWords I just sent you an email about #Levidromes – a word that when spelled backwards, turns into a different yet valid english word for addition to your dictionary. Please see: https://t.co/5SlvhaMP3U for more info on this new exciting word! ❌⭕️❗️ Bill pic.twitter.com/udcZN7psOG
— William Shatner (@WilliamShatner) November 8, 2017
An OED editor explains that in order for the word to be added to the dictionary, people need to start using it not only as part of Levi’s campaign, but in regular speech. They also need to see sustained use over time to prove that it has longevity. If “levidrome” is still being used in a year, it might be on its way into the dictionary.
The campaign just keeps getting bigger. This month, folk singer Lola Parks from Victoria recorded and animated a cartoon School House Rock-esque song and video for “levidrome.” Classes across Canada have also picked up on the idea and hosted competitions to come up with the longest levidrome they can think of. It’s also been integrated into some word-searches and a group that says they are not associated with the Budd family in any way has created an entire levidrome website with a database of levidromes in English, French, German and other languages.
Maybe this time next year, a little boy from Victoria, B.C. will be attributed with coining a word that the English language probably should have figured out a few hundred years ago.