Azinamg docerisvy on how the hmaun bairn wkros

Someone AIMed me this earlier today:

Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnat 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?

My 5 year old son is just beginning to learn how to read and would be completely lost by the text above, as would I have when I first learned English (which is not my mother tongue) in high-school. I wonder when or how that "spark" occurs in your brain that causes one to be able to understand the garbage above.

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But what I want to know is how can I take this text and make it look like that? Does anyone know of any rules for doing this for English?

Posted by Andrew Houghton at September 22, 2003 10:36 PM

This went around at work the other day, until one chap posted the following (extracted) which rather demolished the story...

3 Msot of the wdros are lses tahn 5 ltteres lnog Trehe are jsut 3! (6) wyas
of rntnieserpeg 5 lteter wdros mniantniiag the frsit and lsat catcraehr
[3. Most of the words are less than 5 letters long. There are just 3! (6)
ways of representing 5 letter words maintaining the first and last
character. ]

4. Nnoe of the pitisoopenrs wichh pviodre rllaey iroatnpmt ceuls aoubt the
fwoinllog wrod cngahe mcuh (bacuese tehy are mtsloy 1-3 lettres lnog)
[4. None of the prepositions which provide really important clues about the
following word change much (because they are mostly 1-3 letters long)]

5. A rael crdibgmae urtesviiny litsicugnis sduntet uesd the fwolnloig
emlaxpe wlihe dkinubeng the avobe cmials:
[5. A real cambridge university linguistics student, used the following
example while debunking the above claims: ]

"Try this (it follows the rules promise!):

itampront ferreoings cevnoy orthguit neonness!"

6 A pleruy rodnam stseym (scuh as the prel sprict taht you can garb form the
Sshalodt pgae) or the one I wtore "U:vgd\") pdueocrs txet taht is
mcuh hedrar to raed IHMO.
[6. A purely random system (such as the perl script that you can grab from
the Slashdot page) (or the one I wrote: "U:\vgd\") produces text
that is much harder to read IMHO. ]

[it's what i used for the above examples :)]

Posted by Ivan Towlson at September 23, 2003 4:14 AM

Ok so it may not be a general rule, but it's still pretty interesting that one can read stories consisting of garbled words (even if they are mostly short words) without any appearant slow-down in reading.

Posted by Luke Hutteman at September 23, 2003 10:29 AM

I was just talking about this the other day... there has to be some point at which you stop sounding out the words and start reading them in their entirety.

Posted by Peter G Provost at September 23, 2003 11:55 AM

The interesting thing, is that if you go looking around the web, it is impossible to actually find any references to the actual research. It appears to be an "urban legend" that is living on and on, in email, newsgroups, and blogs :(

Posted by Brian Hampson at September 23, 2003 2:20 PM

Guillaume Fon Sing answered my question regarding when or why we can read these garbled words in a lengthy comment at the end of this thread. Interesting stuff...

Posted by Luke Hutteman at September 25, 2003 5:09 PM

Commenting on the post by Brian Hampson:

Even Snopes ( can't determine if it's true or an urban legend.

Posted by Robby Roberts at October 1, 2003 3:01 PM

This was an acual PhD thesis by Graham Rawlinson in 1976 This is the link to his thesis

Posted by Dawn at November 28, 2003 9:41 PM
This discussion has been closed. If you wish to contact me about this post, you can do so by email.