Today, January 31, is National Backward Day. According to various websites, National Backward Day is all about doing things backward. You can reverse your habits or your direction or even the order in which you eat dinner. Frankly, I’m all for the last activity. I mean, who doesn’t like dessert first? Sometimes my husband and I will eat lunch for breakfast and nosh on cereal for dinner. That usually happens when breakfast is so late it’s even beyond calling it brunch.
I have absolutely no idea how this quirky holiday got started, but it sounds like fun, especially if you’re a kid. Imagine going to school with your clothes on backward, walking to classes backward, sitting in your desk facing the rear of the room, although I think the teacher might take issue with this.
My mother celebrated Backward Day even when it wasn’t the official holiday. She always read her magazines from the back to the front. I could never figure out how she made heads or tails—or should that cliché go tails or heads?—of what she was reading.
Before cars had seatbelts, my sisters and I used to sit backward in the rear seat, sometimes with our legs crossed, other times kneeling or standing, while we waved and made faces at the drivers in the cars following us. Once Daddy had an accident while we were seated that way, and we all ended up on the floor behind him and Mom. Nowadays, they would have hauled my parents to jail for child endangerment had they discovered me and my siblings unseated on the floor. If you believe the authorities, we should have died numerous times from our unsafe childhood practices, yet here I am, still alive and kicking.
I often practiced writing my letters backward when I was a kid, and I didn’t even know about Backward Day then. Back then (no pun intended) I also didn’t know I was following in the footsteps of the great inventor and artist Leonardo Da Vinci, who not only wrote his letters backward but wrote from the right to the left. I learned that tidbit sometime during my college days. I was still practicing backward writing then. It was fun.
In the Sixties I remember playing Iron Butterfly’s rock song “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” backward in an effort to hear the hidden message supposedly embedded in the record. I can’t say that I ever heard any message, though.
We used to play old home movies backward. My husband’s mother filmed him and his dad as they dug a basement under their house and piled the dirt next to the foundation. It was great fun watching the dirt fly from the pile onto Dad’s shovel.
One thing I never do is look backward while walking forward down steps. I used to do that a lot, until I fell down a flight of steps because I missed one I didn’t see… because I wasn’t looking where I should have been. I basically body skied, on my chest, down the entire flight, which included a right-angle landing midway down. Miraculously, I didn’t break a single bone, but, man, was I bruised up.
Writers are often encouraged to edit their manuscripts backward. Being a blonde, I always had trouble figuring out how one would do this. I’m a great speller, and I really know my homonyms—backward and forward. But when I read the sentence “After all, there are very few words that are spelled the same backward as they are forward.” and reverse the letters, I see “drawrof era yeht sa drawkcab emas eht delleps era taht sdrow wef yrev era ereht, lla retfA” What the heck does that say?
Now, if the manuscript used the words racecar, radar, madam, civic, and kayak, nun, noon, peep level, or the sentences “Stop! Murder us not, tonsured rumpots!” or “Madam, I’m Adam.” I could figure that out, because those words and sentences are the same backward and forward. Because the only sure way to know if a word you are reading backward is spelled correctly, is if the word is a palindrome and spells the same thing forward as it does backward.
I’ve written some backward humor to celebrate National Backward Day and maybe taught you something new about backward writing. What are you planning to do to celebrate this day?
P.S. I eventually figured out the way to read your manuscript backward. Look at each word as it’s written forward and check the spelling, because when you edit that way you are basically looking for spelling and repeated words, not sentence structure. I was just yanking the chain on your writer’s pen today. ☺
Happy National Backward Day!