Victoria boy's bid to get 'levidrome' in dictionary gets boost from Shatner

The former captain of the starship USS Enterprise is using his star power to back a Victoria boy’s bid to get a new word added to the dictionary.

Canadian actor William Shatner, who played Capt. James T. Kirk in the Star Trek series, has asked Oxford Dictionaries to add the word “levidrome.”

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The word was coined by six-year-old Levi Budd, a Grade 2 student at St. Michaels University School. A lover of palindromes, Levi discovered there was no word in the dictionary to describe a word that forms another when spelled backward, like pool and loop, or spit and tips. (Emordnilap — palindrome backward — has also been suggested, but it does not appear in the Oxford or Merriam-Webster dictionaries.)

Levi's answer: levidrome.

Father Robert (Lucky) Budd, an oral historian who has appeared on CBC Radio and worked with artist Roy Henry Vickers, proposed the word to dictionary publisher Merriam-Webster, only to be told words need to be in regular usage to be considered. 

So the family created a video explaining the word and its origin. As of Saturday night, it had almost 9,800 views on YouTube.

Then Shatner stepped in, posting a message on Twitter targeting another publisher of dictionaries: “Dearest @OxfordWords I just sent you an email about #Levidromes — a word that when spelled backwards, turns into a different yet valid english word for addition to your dictionary … Bill.”

Budd said it’s helpful to have people with “huge social networks” spreading the word.

There’s even a push underway to attract the attention of Vancouver-born actor Ryan Reynolds, who has 8.51 million followers on Twitter.

Retired Olympic triathlon champion Simon Whitfield tweeted “@VancityReynolds #deadPOOL Loop is pool, pool is loop backward, that’s a #Levidrome — check out this video of the 6yr old trying to get his word into the dictionary.”

Levidrome has already been added to the crowd-sourced online Urban Dictionary, which began in 1999 as a dictionary of slang words and phrases, and on Wednesday, it was included in Merriam-Webster’s online “open dictionary” of new words and slang. 

“It’s gaining legitimacy, so it’s one step closer,” Budd said. “The word is getting used, and the more it spreads, the more we have a chance of getting it in.”

For Levi’s parents, the dictionary drive is about modelling initiative.

“We know it’s not necessarily what we say, but what we do,” Budd said. “He had a great idea and we are showing him how to go for it.”

And even if the word isn’t accepted into the dictionary, he said, Levi has learned a lot and gained self-esteem.

The project has also got kids talking about words and literature. Schools across Canada are sharing photographs of their levidrome boards displaying all the words students have discovered.

“We started five weeks ago and we have 10,000 views on YouTube, the word is in two online dictionaries and schools across Canada are sending in levidromes,” Budd said.

“It’s totally amazing.”

ceharnett@timescolonist.com

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