'Tonsil Is Soft, Fossil Is Not': 9 Palindrome Winners from This Year’s SymmyS Awards

Bychykhin_Olexandr/iStock via Getty Images
Bychykhin_Olexandr/iStock via Getty Images / Bychykhin_Olexandr/iStock via Getty Images

You’ve heard of kayak and race car—maybe even taco cat. But what about If I weep, I pee Wi-Fi?

That evocative sentence, titled “Symptomatic,” earned Seattle-based wordsmith Malaki Stahl an honorable mention at the 2020 SymmyS Awards, an annual contest to honor the most imaginative new palindromes created in the last year. It’s hosted by The Palindromist Magazine, a print-only publication described on its website as being “published irregularly.” The latest SymmyS winners were announced on January 20, 2021 (or 1/20/2021, which itself is a palindrome), by Beyond Wordplay.

Though Stahl’s aforementioned entry only nabbed an honorable mention, they did win two other blue ribbons. Tonsil is soft, fossil is not took first place in the “Short Palindromes” category. And the top slot in the “Mid-Length Palindromes” category went to Stahl’s timely conversation between two coffee shop patrons: “Risk same cafe? Sure, talk later.” “Use face mask sir.” It’s not the only pandemic-era palindrome on the list. Anne Tenna’s offering, titled simply “2020,” was also an honorable mention: Moody, Tim? A lackluster few, we fret, sulk. Calamity! Doom!

In molding perfect palindromes, the authors have created certain phrases that rival the poignance of poetry. Anthony Etherin’s recipe “How to Make a Ragù,” for example, features “a motto,” “a toll,” and an “herb most sombre.” Others, like Matt Bernal’s “Shibboless,” are riotously clever in a laugh-out-loud way: No lisp, eh? Say “Ash, epsilon.”

You can see the winners across three of the five categories (short, mid-length, long, poetry, and visual) below, and check out the rest (including the accompanying images for the visual entries, plus a Petrarchan sonnet and a review for Christopher Nolan’s 2020 film Tenet) here.

Short Palindromes

  1. Tonsil is soft, fossil is not. // “FACT” by Malaki Stahl
  1. Golden, ruby red: nice cindery burned log. // “Yule” by Martin Clear
  1. No lisp, eh? Say “Ash, epsilon.” // “Shibboless” by Matt Bernal

Mid-Length Palindromes

  1. “Risk same cafe? Sure, talk later.” “Use face mask sir.” // “Front Line Barista” by Malaki Stahl
  1. A deed all lewd? Well, la-dee-da! // “Unimpressive” by Matt Bernal
  1. Too fat, soldier Bob Reid lost a foot. // “Diabetic neuropathy” by Jon Agee

Visual Palindromes

  1. Did I, “Evil Alice,” cook cuckoo Cecil alive? I did. // “Evil Alice” by Peter Sabra and Jon Agee
  2. Seen Kong? Odd dog. (No knees) // “Kong” by Jon Agee
  3. Race carrot, or race car? // “Race Carrot” by Win Emmons and Jon Agee

    [h/t Beyond Wordplay]