A six-year-old Victoria boy’s newly created word is being used around the world on beer labels, in songs and classrooms, as well as in print, television and social media, in an effort to get it into the Oxford Dictionary.
Star Trek Capt. James T. Kirk has used it, Canadian musicians Tegan and Sara have advertised it, Vancouver Island singer Lola Parks has sung it and Today host Matt Lauer said it before he was fired from the TV show. Beer companies in Sweden and Chicago have even put it on their labels.
Levi Budd, a Grade 2 student at St. Michaels University School, coined “levidrome” for a word that spells another word when it’s read backward — such as loop and pool, pots and stop, lap and pal, lived and devil.
Levi, who has a fascination with words, found that there is no word for the phenomenon in a printed, published dictionary. Levidrome is a combination of Levi’s name and palindrome — a word spelled the same backward and forward, such as mom, dad, level and kayak.
Levi launched a campaign to get his word into the dictionary with a YouTube video that has gone viral, capturing attention from around the world. His story has appeared in papers in South Africa, Japan, China, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, India and Singapore. In Spain, it is referred to as levidromo, while levidrome is in a Russian urban dictionary.
Strawberry Vale teacher-librarian Travis Richey is one of many educators who have told their students about Levi’s word.
Like many other teachers, librarians and parents, Richey started a contest to fill a levidrome board at school and now it’s full. “It’s been really cool,” Richey said. “We’re all working together to get the word into the dictionary.”
The contest is an easy way to reinforce spelling, he said. French-speaking schools are also taking part, with words such as nom and mon or rein and nier.
Strawberry Vale Elementary student Ava Hong, eight, is hoping to win the top prize of a $20 certificate for the book fair at her school by coming up with the most levidromes.
“I wanted to do stuff for levidrome so Levi can get his word into the dictionary,” Hong said. “I think it’s a really good idea and I’d like to say to Levi it’s very cool.”
For months, schools throughout Victoria — including St. Michaels, Sir James Douglas Elementary, Willows School, Doncaster Elementary and Lakehill Elementary — have posted levidrome boards, along with teachers elsewhere in Canada, and from Maui to Britain.
Greater Victoria School District Superintendent Piet Langstraat says the uptake in his school district and beyond is fantastic. “It’s a grassroots movement and students and teachers are picking it up and going with it,” said Langstraat. “It didn’t start at the district level. It has been spreading through schools organically.”
Star Trek actor William Shatner recognized the efforts. He wrote on Twitter: “Look what @sd61schools are doing to help #Levidrome become a word. This may be a wonderful challenge to other classrooms to do the same.”
Shatner has petitioned Oxford Dictionaries to add Levi’s word to the dictionary.
In a video posted online in November, Oxford Dictionaries senior assistant editor Rebecca Juganaru told Levi that many people now know the word, so “levidrome is well on its way into our dictionary.”
The stipulation from Oxford, however, is that now that the word has been heard around the world — as confirmed by printed, television and social-media reports — it must make its way into ordinary usage.
Oxford Dictionaries editor John Kelly confirmed this month that they continue to watch the word. Earlier, it was posted online as part of Oxford Dictionaries’ weekly word watch.
St. Michaels is also helping Levi’s word work its way into common usage, said Becky Anderson, director of its junior school.
As for the phenomenon Levi has created, Anderson said children have big ideas if we listen to them. “They are such inquisitive people, so capable, so filled with curiosity,” she said. “That’s what’s so exciting and that is what has resonated so strongly with people, literally on a global level, the idea that a child’s question or curiosity really should be embraced and encouraged to see where it can take them and us.”
In England, a man took a picture of a white board filled with levidromes, saying he thinks he found them all.
“We’re getting letters from students all over the world,” said Levi’s dad, Robert Budd.
A classroom of students in New Jersey exchanged letters with Levi’s class, said Budd, an author.
“They are bonding over the love of words,” said Budd. “We’re just sitting back and watching it.”
There’s also a levidrome board at Munro’s bookstore on Government Street.
“Everybody can make a difference,” Budd said.
“When this word gets in the dictionary, it doesn’t belong to Levi — it belongs to everyone who helped, every school, everyone who wrote a song, everyone who is using it. It’s everyone’s word, anyone can get behind it and make a difference.”