Anagrams and Phonetic Wordplay

George Thompson thompson at JLC.NET
Sun Dec 7 02:10:26 UTC 1997

>I seem to vaguely remember a study on wordplay and anagrams--possibily
>even phonetic ones--in Vedic lit.  Does anyone know of such an entity?
>John Robert Gardner      Obermann Center
>School of Religion         for Advanced Studies
>University of Iowa       University of Iowa
>319-335-2164             319-335-4034

There is actually quite a lot on wordplay and anagrams. For the RV,
discussion of these phenomena has been ongoing for a long time. Saussure a
long time ago noticed such things in his notebooks published posthumously
by Starobinski. You will find there Saussure's interesting analysis of the
vibhakti-play on the name of Agni in RV 1.1, as well as the play on the
names *agni* and *aGgiras*.

Geldner was certainly aware of these phenomena. There are references to
them scattered throughout his translation and commentary. Likewise,
references to such things can be found quite often in Renou's EVP. See also
Thieme on 'Sprachmalerei' and Elizarenkova's 1995 book as well. I recall an
article by Saverio Sani as well, and no doubt Gonda has written about such
things somewhere. Why, I think that I also have mentioned this sort of
thing somewhere, although for the life of me I can't remember where. I'm
sure that there are other references that have slipped my mind, or that I
just have not run across. Perhaps others can supply more references.

Indo-Europeanists like Toporov and Watkins have also called attention to
anagrams, etc., in the RV. And Martin Schwartz has discovered elaborate
wordplay in the Gathas of Zarathustra, which would confirm that such
practices were surely a prominent feature of proto-Indo-Iranian poetics,
and apparently an IE phenomenon as well.

I'm sorry not to give detailed bibliographic references right now [it is
the end of the present semester, of course]. I can track these down for you
if needed. I send this quick note just to assure you that you are right to
pursue an interest in such things. They are an important feature of Vedic

Best wishes,

George Thompson

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