Brain's Ability to Extract Meaning Amid Typos?
April 16, 2007 9:22 AM   Subscribe

A year or so ago, a popular meme circulating via email was an illustration of how the brain can read through text with egregious typos. It was a passage rife with reversed, ommitted, or superfluous letters, but was perfectly readable. Can anyone come up with it? Thanmks!
posted by jimmyjimjim to Writing & Language (16 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
The quick brown fox
jumped over the
the lazy dog.

That type of thing?
posted by tiamat at 9:26 AM on April 16, 2007

posted by Aloysius Bear at 9:26 AM on April 16, 2007

Response by poster: Aloysius, very close to that, yeah. Problem is that I remember my eye being able to cut through the passage like butter, whereas I'm actually not parsing this particular example very well! thanks!
posted by jimmyjimjim at 9:28 AM on April 16, 2007

Is it this? There are no ommitted nor superfluous letters; they're just scrambled within each word, retaining the first & last letters. This has been making the rounds for some time.
posted by sonofslim at 9:33 AM on April 16, 2007

All comments about superfluous letters in my reply should be omitted from this thread, thank you.
posted by sonofslim at 9:35 AM on April 16, 2007

it was aolng the lenis taht it olny mttares taht the frsit and lsat ltetres are in the rghit pacle.

Sorry I can't seem to find the actual piece of text, but once the first and last letters are correct it is easy for the brain to understand.
posted by Elmore at 9:37 AM on April 16, 2007

Try this.

Also, sometimes it works better than other times. Short words work best. For example:

A yaer or so ago, a pauplor mmee ctuicarnlig via eamil was an iitroatuslln of how the biran can raed tuhgroh txet wtih eiroggues tpyos. It was a pgaasse rfie wtih rsevered, oetmimtd, or sfuuploeurs lreetts, but was pecrletfy rdealabe.
posted by demiurge at 9:38 AM on April 16, 2007

Try this. It also explains that the original meme found on the web in 2003 isn't actually from Cambridge... the actual papragragh I believe you're looking for starts at the bottom of the 3rd page.
posted by Laura in Canada at 9:41 AM on April 16, 2007

Snopes has a version and credits our own languagehat with the popularization of the concept in 2003.
posted by Partial Law at 9:41 AM on April 16, 2007 [1 favorite]

Its Pbbarloy tihs ltitle dcisrevoy form snmoeoe at Cmbadgeie. Its pttrey esay to raed, but I aslo alipepd tihs tnecqhiue to the URL, so now the lnik dsnoet work .
posted by damn dirty ape at 9:43 AM on April 16, 2007

The work by Claude Shannon on the redundancy of language is pretty old now so its remarkable to see languagehat in that old mefi thread being astounded by it too. Of course Shannon was working in the context of information theory and mathematics, not linguistics.
posted by vacapinta at 9:48 AM on April 16, 2007

Last week a coworker brought in the Snopes version, and I told her it looked very urban-legendy, so I visited many of these links. My favorite was this word-masher which allows you to try different sentences. You can see that the longer the word, the harder it is.
1, 2 & 3-letter words don't mix up at all, and 4-letter words just exchange the middle 2, so most of the words have little change to them and provide context.
posted by MtDewd at 10:12 AM on April 16, 2007

Shortly after this came out, I found a counter-example online, which I believe was produced by an academic. It was a piece of similar length to the one on Snopes but it was next to impossible to read. So don't take it too seriously.
posted by PercussivePaul at 10:25 AM on April 16, 2007

Response by poster: You guys are awesome. Thanmks so much!
posted by jimmyjimjim at 10:28 AM on April 16, 2007

Thanks Partial Law, never knew that the Languagehat had a hand in spreading this. Aewosme!!!
posted by Elmore at 12:32 PM on April 16, 2007

You'll want to read this Language Log post carefully.
(also, recently)
posted by dmd at 1:58 PM on April 16, 2007

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