Words & Stuff

cc: Rat Dreams (Notes)

(18 January 1998)

Here are the originals of the Chaucer and Shakespeare quotations I mangled:

Whan that Aprill with his shoures soote
The droghte of March hath perced to the roote,
And bathed every veyne in swich licour
Of which vertu engendred is the flour;
Whan Zephirus eek with his sweete breeth
Inspired hath in every holt and heeth
The tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne
Hath in the Ram his half cours yronne,
And smale foweles maken melodye,
That slepen al the nyght with open ye
(So priketh hem nature in hir corages),
Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages,
And palmeres for to seken straunge strondes,
To ferne halwes, kowthe in sondry londes;
And specially from every shires ende
Of Engelond to Caunterbury they wende,
The hooly blisful martir for to seke,
That hem hath holpen whan that they were seeke.

To be, or not to be, that is the question:--
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind, to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune;
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them? -- To die, -- to sleep,
No more; -- and, by a sleep, to say we end
The heart-ache, and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to, -- 'tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish'd. To die, -- to sleep:--
To sleep! perchance to dream: -- ay, there's the rub;
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come,
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause.
Hamlet, II.ii.56-68

Procedural details

I took the original texts, used a Perl script to reverse them letter-by-letter, and ran them through both the FrameMaker 5.1 spellchecker, and the Word 4 spellchecker (on the Macintosh). Where their suggestions differed, I went with whichever I liked best. (The FrameMaker spellchecker is almost too good to use in this procedure; for a short reversed word, its first suggestion is usually the original word.)

I usually avoided proper nouns where possible. Usually I took the first improper suggestion offered, but sometimes went further down the suggestion list to use the first word I knew, or once in a while for a word I simply liked more. Punctuation, of course, is entirely by me, which provided a lot of flexibility.

I had a bit of trouble with "consummation": I mistyped it as "ocnsummation," which reversed to "noitammusnco" (for which FrameMaker came up with the delightful "incommunicado"), but when I noticed the mistake and spellchecked the correct reversal, neither checker offered any suggestions. So I stuck with the mistake; and on the return trip, discovered that neither spellchecker had any idea for "odacinummocni" either. After trying various variations, I finally split it into two words.

Finally, I wasn't satisfied with "bur" but there were no other options offered. My dictionary lists "bur" as a variant spelling of "burr," so I corrected it.


Jed Hartman <logophilia@kith.org>