Wordsmith.org : the magic of words

Monday, September 23, 2013

The Anagram Times Q&A with Rosie Perera

Rosie Perera, an anagrammer extraordinaire, is Canada bureau chief of The Anagram Times. She has been a correspondent for this paper for more than a year and during this time she has filed dozens of anagrammatic dispatches that keep our readers coming back for more. Meet Rosie.

Q How did you get into anagrams?
A I first got into anagrams at a summer math camp I attended when I was in high school, the Hampshire College Summer Studies in Mathematics (HCSSiM). I might have played around with the Jumble in the newspaper at home before that, but had no idea what an anagram was until I hung out with friends at HCSSiM anagramming each other's names and such.

Q Do you remember the first anagram you made?
A I don't remember my very first anagram, but the first one I can remember doing was in college, during a particularly boring Classics class I took. My friends and I would sit in the back of class and work on anagrams. I came up with one for the professor's name which fit him to a T:
John Rowe Workman = How now, Roman jerk?

Q Do you have a favorite anagram?
A Favorite in general, or favorite that I've done? It's hard to pick a favorite. I tend to favor the short ones, and I love some of the classics like Presbyterian = Best in prayer. I guess one of my all-time favorites that I've done is: Internet addiction = Cannot end it. I tried.

Q How do you pick a news headline to anagram?
A I tend to get drawn to new stories that are outrageous or ridiculous, ones that raise my ire or make me laugh. I find it's a form of catharsis to anagram an infuriating headline instead of fuming about it. I can get some of my political frustration and cynicism out of my system that way. And if it's a really funny story that I just have to share with friends, sharing it with anagram is more fun than just tweeting a link to it.

Q Describe the moment when you are working on anagramming a phrase and the last few letters just fall into place and you realize that you have an outstanding anagram on your hands.
A I love that moment! Sometimes it feels like the letters were made to work out that way by God just for my sheer pleasure. But of course there are many times when I cannot come up with anything worth beans. So when it does happen to be a phrase that anagrams perfectly, I delight in the flexibility of the English language. It really is just a coincidence, but a delightful one.

Q Some people use anagrams for divination. Do you think there's a mystical angle to anagrams?
A Nope. Not in the sense that there's some secret hidden message in them. But I do find joy in them when they work out beautifully. For example, I have a tradition of sending an anagram of the new baby's name as a blessing to new parents, and some of them are just spot on. A friend of mine gained her first grandson recently, and I was able to anagram his name to "O, am that precious son". So do I think God hid that particular message in the letters of his name? No. I think these are all just coincidences. But the fact that there is the possibility of coincidence at all in life, and joy and delight in things of beauty and meaning, yes I do think that is because there is a God.

Q What do you do in your non-anagram life? Do you see any parallels in what you do and in anagramming?
A I'm a writer, photographer, and teacher. Well, I like working with and shaping words in my writing, and that has some similarities to anagramming. I also love punning and an y kind of word play. I find sources for anagram texts wherever I go and whatever I do.

Q Approximately how long do you spend on an anagram?
A It depends, partially on the length of the initial text I choose (they can be very short phrases like 10 letters, or several hundred letters; I anagrammed an entire short book once, 770 letters). Sometimes they fall together in literally seconds. I would say an average, for a standard headline-length anagram, is 3-5 minutes. I generally no longer have the patience to spend much longer than that. If it doesn't come together for me quickly, I move on to a different source text.

Q Anything else you'd like to add?
A I use Anagram Artist to help with my anagramming work, and it's a fantastic tool. It helps with the menial tasks of keeping track of what letters I've used already, what letters are left, and listing all possible words can be spelled with the remaining letters. I also use it to filter out possible words to look for ones that rhyme with a particular ending, so that I can anagram a rhyming set of lines into another one.
I made a screencast a while back of myself using Anagram Artist to do an anagram that came together really quickly. It also serves as a kind of tutorial for how to use AA.

Selected anagrams from Rosie Perera: