I Palindrome I

From This Might Be A Wiki
Sculpture representing the song from the Apollo 18 promo

song name I Palindrome I
artist They Might Be Giants
releases Apollo 18, I Palindrome I (EP), Dial-A-Song: 20 Years Of They Might Be Giants, A User's Guide to They Might Be Giants: Melody, Fidelity, Quantity, Flood + Apollo 18, 50,000,000 They Might Be Giants Songs Can't Be Wrong
year 1992
first played January 23, 1992 (231 known performances)
run time 2:22
sung by John Linnell, John Flansburgh backs


  • John Flansburgh on the song and its Dial-A-Song demo in 2012: "I made a quick song for DAS with the title—which really was a sketch I can't even remember—and then handed off the title to Mr. [Linnell]."
  • Linnell reported on WNYC's Studio 360 in May 2001 that he wrote this after attending a poetry reading by Hal Sirowitz. Sirowitz is known for his book of dark verse called, Mother Said. He also had an EP on the Hello Recording Club, and his poetry was featured in Podcast 47. Linnell on Sirowitz's work:
I always think of the one where the mother complains about - I can't recite it for you, but it's the one where she's complaining that he feeds crumbs to the bugs and he never gives anything to his mom. [...] I guess I must have written ["I Palindrome I"] after I saw Hal. It starts with the line "Someday Mother will die and I'll get the money." Except for the fact that Hal's mother didn't have money, I think that would fit in with his work.
  • A number of palindromes (of various types) are featured in the song:
  • "Son I am able she said, though you scare me. Watch, said I, beloved, I said, watch me scare you though. Said she, able am I, Son," is a palindrome which uses words as units instead of letters. This is a form of antimetabole. This line may also be a reference to the famous palindrome "Able was I ere I saw Elba", widely misattributed to Napoleon Bonaparte.
  • Flans sings "Man o nam" and the classic palindrome, "Egad, a base tone denotes a bad age".
  • The length of the track is 2:22, which is a numerical palindrome.
  • The line "a snake head eating the head on the opposite side" refers to the ancient symbol ouroboros, as well as bearing resemblance the mythic creature amphisbaena.
  • Flansburgh has apologized to his mother before playing this song at live concerts.
  • Michael McKean read this song's lyrics like a poem in the extras of Gigantic.
  • A promotional video was planned for the song but Elektra Records pulled the plug at the last minute. Artist J. Otto Seibold, a previous collaborator with the band who had been tapped to direct the clip, recalled: "I remember Linnell was going to be walking in place on a treadmill in a pied piper outfit. And my two dogs at the time were going to have squid and whale costumes. The rest is hazy. I do remember being bummed that it didn't go forward."

Song Themes

Age, Animals, Backwards, Body Parts, Clothes, Death, Funny But Sad, Heads, Love, Medical, Mirrors And Reflections, Money, Nonsense Words, Recursion, Relatives, The Senses, Shapes, Swear Words, Time, Traded Tracks


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I Palindrome I is currently ranked #9 out of 1009. (295 wikians have given it an average rating of 9.27)