Steve Sachs Duke


Friday, October 17, 2003


Luitginisc Cnuosifon: Back in September, the Volokh Conspiracy posted the following email forward:

Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a total mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Fcuknig amzanig huh?

Like most email forwards, it's an urban legend; many versions circulating around the web change the text slightly, such as referencing an "Elingsh uinervtisy" instead. (The "Elingsh uinervtisy" version was reprinted in the October 2003 edition of Prospect Magazine.) But apparently this legend has a grain of truth behind it, originating in actual linguistic research. By now, the forward has shown up in several different versions and even 14 different languages.

So, does it work? To test it, I've put up a simple CGI script (written in GAWK!) called "The Jumbler", which can randomly jumble any text while preserving the first and last letters of each word, as well as punctuation. Results may differ, but running the first sentence of the email through a second time produced "Accirnodg to a raecchesrh at Cdiagmrbe Uirsitnvey," which is far less legible (especially if you don't know what you're supposed to be reading). Here are some other results; judge for yourself.

When in the Crsoue of hmaun enevts, it bcoemes neasrscey for one ppeloe to dslsoive the ptocaiill badns wchih hvae cetcnoend them wtih ahtnoer, and to aussme amnog the prewos of the etrah, the sapreate and eqaul sitoatn to wcihh the Lwas of Nuarte and of Ntuare's God elnttie tehm, a deenct rcspeet to the oionpnis of mnkaind rereqius taht they sluhod dclaere the cauess wichh iepml them to the satraopein.

To be, or not to be: that is the qesoutin:
Weehhtr 'tis nbelor in the mnid to suffer
The snlgis and aowrrs of ougautores furntoe,
Or to take amrs angisat a sea of tboulres,
And by oopinpsg end them?

I wulod gllday pay you Tudseay for a hrgmuaebr tdaoy.

It seems that some basic aspects of consonant ordering need to be preserved, but that's just my first impression--I'll wait to hear what the experts have to say.




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