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How Do You Anagram Your Name?

In "The Da Vinci Code", author Dan Brown uses an anagram of Leonardo da Vinci's name as "O, draconian devil."
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  • Written By: C. K. Lanz
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 21 August 2014
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You can anagram your name by rearranging all the letters to form a word or phrase. For example, the letters of the name Mary can be rearranged to form the word “army.” An anagrammatist is a person who specializes in creating anagrams. A skilled anagrammatist will create a cognate anagram of your name or one that also reveals something about you, such as your work or personality. A clever cognate anagram of the pop musician and dancer Madonna Louise Ciccone’s name could be “one cool dance musician."

Most anagrammatists will use a pencil and paper or letter tiles to anagram your name. A perfect anagram of your name will use every letter, even if it occurs more than once. If your name contains two of the letter o, the resulting anagram should also include the same number. An anagram that does not make use of every letter of the original name is considered to be imperfect.

When trying to anagram your name, there are several things to keep in mind. The anagram should make some direct reference to or commentary about you or its subject. An anagram that is too obscure may not be understandable. Grammatical correctness and humor can also improve an attempt to anagram your name. Punctuation like exclamation points and interjections are usually avoided.

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Creating anagrams has a long history in many languages. The earliest evidence of anagrams can be found in the work of the Lycophron, a Greek poet who lived in Alexandria in the third century B.C. He created anagrams of the names of Ptolemy and the queen Arsinoe. Ptolemaios became apo melitos, or “made of honey,” a reference to the king’s kind nature.

Later in the sixth century B.C., Pythagoras is believed to have examined anagrams for hidden meanings. The belief that anagrams could reveal a person’s destiny or the future was also apparently shared by Plato as well as Alexander the Great. The night before the city of Tyre fell to Alexander, the conqueror is said to have dreamed of a satyr. An anagram of satyros, the Greek word for a satyr, is sa tyros, or “Tyre is yours.”

Faith in the predictive power of anagrams persisted throughout the Middle Ages and into the late 17th and 18th centuries. Anagrams could also be used to obscure a person’s identity or to hide or protect information. Roger Bacon, for example, identified one of the ingredients of gunpowder only in anagram form. In the realm of fiction, author Dan Brown used anagrams to keep the readers of his novel The Da Vinci Code guessing. He uses the phrase “O, draconian devil” as an anagram of Leonardo da Vinci’s name.

Making anagrams of the names of famous people came in vogue by the 19th century. Lewis Carroll created some famous examples, including “flit on, cheering angel,” an anagram of Florence Nightingale. He also created the anagram “wild agitator means well” from the letters in William Ewart Gladstone’s name.

It is now possible to anagram your name by using a computer program. Such programs can be purchased or downloaded for free online. These programs can generate a list of many anagrams very quickly, but many will be meaningless. Use of software to create an anagram arguably removes the elements of human ingenuity and creativity from this linguistic game, but finding an anagram that relates to the original name can still be satisfactory.

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