Litching Swetters

Talking, much like walking, is a necessary function that can be fun but becomes tedious over time. Slang helps to keep things interesting by constantly rearranging and adjusting the meaning of words, but its downfall is that it renders previously meaningful language unusable. Clams, cheddar, green, dough and paper are all slang terms for money, but they are not new words; they were redefined for the ignoble purpose of attempting to appear original. By taking words that have a specific use and applying them to something else, language is eroded and our vocabularies shrink. This practice is especially foolish when the object being named already has its own word. Language is always evolving – this is inevitable – but we do not need more words for money.

Sometimes something completely new is discovered and needs to be named, but instead of redefining an existing term why not create entirely new terminology? Everything was nameless at some point, so we shouldn’t hesitate to assign new titles to new things. Unfortunately, inventing an entirely new term may seem simple, but making a word that sounds legitimate is more complicated, for speaking a meaningless word produces noises that seem fabricated and unnatural. We can reduce this effect by engineering our word to resemble existing English words. The simplest way to do this is to simply switch a few letters in two already established words.

First, choose two words. Let’s pick some that aren’t too complex or unique-sounding. As an example we will use some words that are right at our fingertips: shift and delete.

Second, we take the first sound of each word, which in this case would be sh and d, and switch them. The result is two brand new words: shelete and dift. Fun and easy, right? Let’s practice a few more.

  • silk hamper = hilk samper
  • nice tool = tice nool
  • gutter hulk = hutter gulk

This method can also be used to create nicknames for friends and family as well as original names for pets and babies. It works basically the same way as with words, but we choose two names instead.

  • Peter Smith = Smeter Pith
  • Bill Scott = Skill Bot
  • Jenny Williams = Wenny Jilliams

Most of these examples are pretty straightforward. We take the consonant sound from the beginning of each word or name and exchange them. But what about words and names that don’t begin with consonants? Let’s try Adam and Charles. Because Adam does starts with a vowel sound we simply switch the ch sound from Charles to Adam, which produces Chadam Arles. 

What about when neither of the two words starts with a consonant sound, as with Oliver and Amos? We simply switch the vowel sounds, giving us Aliver Omos. Because we are alternating the sound and not merely the letters of the two components, we must sometimes alter the spelling of the new words or names so that they are properly pronounced. Aliver Omos would be more accurately spelled Aeliver Ommus.

Okay, so what do we do when one or both of the words starts with multiple consonant sounds, such as glamour and freedom? We actually have two options in this scenario, for it is viable to switch either the first or both the first and second consonant sounds, producing either glamour and greedom or framour and gleedom.  

Go ahead and give it a try using the names of people and items around you. Nineteen words of caution: letter switching is highly addictive, so be sure to practice reservation or you may test the patience of others.

Good luck microing your Stink Blockers.


There is an explanation for everything. Our world is comprised of matter and energy that behaves in predictable ways, allowing us a degree of certainty when imagining hypothetical situations. Yet, despite the massive leaps forward in science, we occasionally find ourselves in the midst of events so absurd, so seemingly unpredictable, that we can only respond with the words, “well, that was random.”

It wasn’t.

Although we may not have been able to predict such scenarios, they weren’t random; they only seemed random because we didn’t know why it occurred. There’s likely a perfectly legitimate explanation for the any situation we find ourselves in, no matter how strange. Before we continue, let us make some important declarations and distinctions about how the universe operates:

  1. Nothing is random, because everything has a cause.
  2. Some things are pseudo-random, having a nearly incomprehensible cause.
  3. Some things only seem random, but actually maintain a comprehensible cause.

Although no occurrence can be truly random, by categorizing all measurable events as either pseudo-random or seemingly random, we may better understand what is meant when something is characterized as random. First, let’s deal with those things that we might consider random, but which are actually just unpredictable.

Random number generation has been used throughout history for many purposes, most notably gambling. By creating devices that use high speeds and complex vectors, such as dice or roulette wheels, we can produce outcomes which cannot be predicted, at least not with the human eye. More recently, we have used computers to generate pseudo-random numbers using algorithms and seed values. Though much more elaborate than physical random number generation, the results are still derived from a concrete source, so they cannot be truly random.

A popular example of perceived randomness, often used to prove some point about the universe, is the idea that an infinite number of monkeys on an infinite number of typewriters will produce the complete works of Shakespeare. The premise being that the typing pattern of monkeys is random and, therefore, it will eventually produce every outcome. This is not true.

Monkeys will never produce the works of Shakespeare, and we don’t need to lock a monkey in a room with a typewriter to find that out. If we were to simply imagine the result of such an experiment, we would likely conclude that the monkey had been hitting keys randomly, but this is not the case. The mind and motions of a monkey are not random, they follow a pattern. Much like the roll of a dice, we might not be able to predict the outcome, but there is most certainly a pattern, and it is most certainly different from the pattern found in Shakespeare. If we were so inclined, we could observe and record the results of monkey typing on a massive scale and eventually produce some algorithm which would describe the most commonly used keys, key combinations and punctuation. For all we know, it’s possible that monkeys might detest pressing the Q key and avoid touching it at all costs, or maybe they would continuously press the Home key in a depressing attempt to communicate their longing for freedom.

Now let’s discuss the second type of event, which includes those things that might seem random, but are actually quite predictable. It is possible that rolling dice might belong in this category, for if we were watch the roll in slow-motion or merely increase the size of the dice, the outcome would be much more predictable. Also, rolling a dice on a smooth surface makes the process less complex and, thus, further from the unattainable state of randomness.

Benford’s law is another example of finding a predictable pattern where we would typically expect randomness. In 1881, Simon Newcomb, a bearded man, observed a peculiar statistical phenomenon. While spending a relaxing evening beside the fire, sipping a glass of wine and thumbing through logarithm books (as all of us do), Newcomb noticed that the pages which contained numbers that started with the number 1 were more worn than other pages. He then analyzed a variety of different data sources and found the same anomaly, but his discovery was largely ignored until it was verified years later by similar examinations of data.

Basically, Benford’s law says that if we examine data from almost any source, we will find a definitive pattern in the value of the first digit of those numbers. The most frequent number is 1, which is found to be the left-most digit in a staggering 30.1% of data values. The frequency of each number decreases as we approach 9, which appears as the first digit a mere 4.6% of the time. Benford’s law can be used to detect tax fraud, since forged numbers contain a more even distribution in first-digit frequency.

Unusual behavior is much easier to predict than a dice roll, for it can often be traced back to previous experiences, trends and habits. In fact, these events are not at all difficult to predict; they are merely unexpected. If we were to attempt to prove the existence of randomness by, for example, saying a random word, the word would be inevitably predictable. The process of choosing that word would merely be a brief expedition into the subconscious – nothing more. After blurting out the unchosen word, one would likely need only to probe recent memory to find its inception.

Go ahead, try to say something random.

Solitaria Verba

Language is tamed noise. Locked inside a calcium cage, our tongues, like wild beasts, are subjugated and conditioned to perform from a repertoire of acoustic tricks. As the grotesque, red muscle contorts and undulates, vibrations from within cavernous depths are molded into distinct tones. When pushed up against one another, these tones meld into creatures known as a words. Words seldom appear alone, preferring to gather in small groups called sentences. The shape and size of words will differ from region to region, each vocal species, or language, employing its own unique variations. Together, all the words roaming the plains of our mind form a vocabulary.

Words offer a means to meaning, and every word is unique. Some words are docile and benevolent, some are cunning and devious, while others are ruthless and threatening. By calling forth words, we can invoke their nature to create sentences which have the the power to exalt or shame, create or destroy. However, there are some sentences which have a meaning distinct from the sum of their words; these are known as idioms. 

Often puzzling to outsiders, an idiom employs familiar words in unfamiliar ways by borrowing meaning from culture and legend. But beyond the realm of the idiom, there remains an even more rare and mysterious form of verbal expression. Though they could technically be classified as idioms, this special variety contains solitaria verba (isolated words). This means that inside each phrase there is a word which is not used in normal speech, instead appearing only in combination with select words. Let’s look at some examples:

  • Aided and abetted
  • Happy belated birthday
  • Coursing through its veins
  • Pent up anger
  • Clean slate
  • Jog your memory
  • Growth spurt
  • Rail against authority
  • Off kilter
  • Vehemently disagree
  • Let bygones be bygones
  • Stave off hunger
  • Eastern seaboard
  • Gale-force winds
  • Star-spangled banner
  • Bubonic plague
  • Hellacious beating
  • Self-deprecating humor
  • Drunken stupor
  • Abject poverty
  • Wreak havoc
  • Stunt your growth
  • Stoop to their level
  • Doesn’t bode well
  • Pare it down
  • Vested interest
  • Rue the day
  • Torrential rain
  • A moot point
  • Biding your time
  • Morbidly obese
  • Sweltering heat
  • Full-fledged professional
  • Snide remark
  • Good riddance
  • Rifled through
  • Privy to the information
  • That was riveting
  • Batten down the hatches
  • Figment of the imagination
  • Tide you over
  • Run amok
  • Keel over
  • Fell swoop
  • New-fangled contraption
  • Rickety ladder
  • Scantily clad
  • Brunt of the impact
  • Staunch atheist
  • Gyrating hips
  • Brandishing a weapon
  • Beck and call
  • Frenetic pace
  • Abominable snowman

These words are used by many, but could be defined by few. We don’t think about the definition of each individual word because we know the meaning of the phrase, but that means we are saying words that we don’t even understand. Perhaps, if put on the spot we could come up with a vague, clumsy definition, but we don’t really know what these words mean because they aren’t a part of our vocabulary. Let’s think for a moment: what things are abominable, other than snowmen? Have escaped zoo animals ever walked amok? When did we ever rue the night or wish someone bad riddance? Did we ever bide anything other than time or play with something that was just plain fangled?

Don’t use words you don’t understand.