Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Bricks, turned

kw: reminiscences, reading

When I was quite little and learning to sound out words, one day I came across a brick sidewalk. A few of the bricks had a word on them. One looked like this:

I sounded it out: "Simons". Great!

I knew a kid whose family was named Simons. Were they in the brick business?

Before long, I came across the next brick with a word on it. It looked different:

I sounded it out: "Snowis". I knew "snow" but this was new.

I wondered if the brick company was named "Simons and Snowis", and decided to look up "Snowis" in the phone book at home.

I turned around to go home, and saw the second brick, and was astonished to see that now it read "Simons"! Feeling a bit odd, I went to the other brick, the one I saw first. Now it said "Snowis".

Finally I realized that they all said just "Simons". It was just which way you came at them.

Some years later I learned about symmetry, and how some words and other objects look the same when rotated. In 1961 I figured out that it was a year with a rotational number, and that the next one would be 6009. That was also the year that I saw a sign that can be rotated half a turn, and reads the same:
(Seen at a swimming pool near my home.) These are related to palindromes (Such as "Able was I ere I saw Elba"), but I don't know a term for them.

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