Steve Briers - World Record Holder

I’m very proud to be a World Record holder and to have been included in the Guinness Book of Records on many occasions over the years, including the Special Year 2000 Millennium edition. I first set my Record as ‘The World’s Fastest Backwards Talker’ back in 1988 live on the Radio 1 Roadshow in Tenby with Simon Mayo.

Being a Queen fan, I recited the lyrics of Queen’s classic 1978 Album  ‘A Night at The Opera’. I recited backwards all 2,343 words, in 15 minutes, 7 seconds to set a new World Record, in front of an audience of at least 10,000. An American took the record off me soon after, but I then appeared on a BBC Radio 4 show called ‘Cat’s Whiskers’ in July 1989, where I won back my record reciting the lyrics in a time of 9 minutes 58.44 seconds and it’s a world record that I am still proud to hold to this day.

So how do I do it and what do I actually do? Well, in a nutshell, I just reverse each individual word, but keep the actual sentence in the same order. Therefore, whatever I say is natural and fluent without being rehearsed, because if I reversed the whole sentence too, then I would need to know what I am going to say before reversing it and saying it. So, for example, ‘MARY HAD A LITTLE LAMB’ becomes ‘YRAM DAH A ELTTIL BMAL’. In my head, I instantly break the word down into syllables backwards, then put them back together back to front. For example, the 3 syllabled word of TELEPHONE, when reversed, gives me 4 syllables – E-NOHP-E-LET. Got it? Have a go yourself. Go on, just try it. The silent ‘E’ forwards then becomes a prominent ‘E’ backwards when the ‘E becomes the first letter of the word.

I also get asked, if we reverse a sentence, record it, then play it back forwards, would it sound the same? Well, some words with simple syllables like WHISPER, when reversed to REPSIHW, will sound pretty close, but in reality, when reversed, the words create a different sound coming out of your mouth and therefore, a different language. The above example of the word TELEPHONE is a great example, because forwards, the ‘PH’ is a ‘F’ sound, but backwards, the ‘H’ becomes a silent H and the ‘P’ becomes prominent and sounds as a ‘P’ should sound, if that makes sense? Likewise the silent ‘E’ forwards becomes a prominent ‘E’ at the start of the word when reversed. So, the simple answer is ‘no’.

I can instantly reverse any word that is logical in the English language. If you’throw’ a word at me, I can instantly reverse it in my head and throw it back to you. What I often say to people when I am ‘demonstrating’ my talent, is to ask them to firstly work out what a word is backwards, so that when they ‘test’ me, when I respond, they will know what I am saying because they will be expecting the sound that I am returning to them without it otherwise being ‘gobbledegook’, which in reality, it inevitably is.

To me, it’s like a whole new language, it’s a bit of fun and I really cannot explain how I can do it. I believe that my brain just has this little ‘add on’ to enable me to have a bit of fun with words. The one big remit is that it’s really important that I can spell well because if I get a single letter wrong in my spelling of a word, when I reverse it, the whole sound of the word will be different. So, to dispel a common myth, my spelling of words needs to be perfect. In reality, when I speak backwards, it’s tough to dechiper what I am saying. That’s why I ask people to work out first what the backwards phrase would be so they know what to expect. However, being a bit of a perfectionist, for me, it has to be spot-on, which means getting the letters in the correct order when reversing the word irrespective of whether I’m being ‘tested’ or not!. Got that so far?

Next time I will write about how I first started and how I first realised that I had this ‘gift’ at the age of 10, way before I started as a DJ at 17 and how an innocent response from me to a national newspaper aged 16 mushroomed to TV and radio chat shows, game shows, interviews all over the world, personal appearances for Disney in Florida, for Guinness in Singapore etc. plus befriending Steve Woodmore, the ‘World’s Fastest Talker’ (Forwards)


  • 11 Jun 2015