Learn English – What word describes text having a different meaning backwards and forwards

antonymspalindromesemanticstaxonomyterminology

Jonathan Reed's poem 'Lost Generation' is a pessimistic view of the future if read forwards. However, if you read it backwards linewise (not wordwise), it is still semantically meaningful, but the meaning is optimistic and almost completely opposite.

Here are a few lines backwards and forwards to demonstrate:

In the future
Environmental destruction will be the norm
No longer can it be said that
My peers and I care about this earth
It will be evident that
My generation is apathetic and lethargic
It is foolish to presume that
There is hope

vs

There is hope
It is foolish to presume that
My generation is apathetic and lethargic
It will be evident that
My peers and I care about this earth
No longer can it be said that
Environmental destruction will be the norm
In the future

Of course, the first word that comes to mind is palindromic. However, a palindrome is exactly the same forwards and backwards (discounting punctuation) whereas this is opposite forward and backwards – so pretty much the antonym of a palindrome.

I've spent a while searching for an existing word to describe this to no avail, so I am deferring to the geniuses here 🙂

Thanks,
Matt

Best Answer

"reverse poem" is what I found when I did a research, though it does not seem like an official term. It is mentioned as a type of palindrome in some of the sources and there are different kinds of reverse poems as well.

Sources:

http://www.ehow.com/how_8556361_write-reverse-poem.html

Reverse poems make sense when read frontwards and backwards. There are three main types of reverse poems: those that reverse line by line, those that reverse word by word, and those that simply reverse the message without the above wordplay.


http://wikidave.wikispaces.com/Reverse+Poetry

Reverse poetry is a poem that can be read forwards one way and have a meaning, but also be read backwards and have another different meaning. A type of ‘reverse’ writing is called a palindrome.