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Tuesday, December 08, 2009

New Cipher

Stave If Off is a longtime advocate of Cockney rhyming slang.

The most colorful origin story maintains that the criminal classes in London invented the cipher in order to speak openly without fear of constabulary repercussion. The system works by replacing key words with commonly paired words that rhyme with the original. Thus... the key word "road" is subbed out for commonly paired words "frog and toad". Hearing someone in a thick Cockney accent saying, "The pub is just down the frog and toad," makes me smile. It becomes even more surreal when the word that actually rhymes with the original word is omitted. "The pub is just down the frog," makes me smile uncontrollably.

If you're unfamiliar with the common examples, try to decipher these phrases yourself:

"She's got lovely bacons."
"Pass the army, will you?"
"Hand over the bees!"

Start by looking at the code words: bacon, army and bees. What words are they commonly paired with? If we guess that bacon's pair word is sausage (as in "bacon and sausage") then we would look for a word that rhymes with sausage that fits into the expression "She's got lovely ___s." Since nothing really rhymes with sausage... we can conclude that sausage was the wrong pair word. Or... maybe she does have lovely Gossages. Who knows? Better bet is to go back and find another word that is frequently paired with bacon.

Following the first link in this post will lead you to the answers if you're stumped.

A fun new cipher has been created by the phenomenon of cell phone texting. Most cell phones include a predictive texting function that guesses at what you're trying to spell. Since each number corresponds to 3 letters... there are quite a number of possible permutations if you hit the 4,6,5 buttons in that order. 4 could be any of GHI, 6 could be MNO and 5 could be JKL. Basic math will reveal that there are 27 different possible letter combinations in this example. But only one spells an English word: INK. So your very smart cell phone assumes you are trying to spell INK.

This doesn't always work perfectly however. As you might surmise, many words have the same numerical formula... and my very smart cell phone doesn't know if I want to "eat" a bagel or "fat" a bagel. Both words are spelled when you punch in 327. Luckily for my bagel, the phone defaults to "eat". It is often wrong though... which creates the opportunity for a new cipher. Incorrect predictive texting results give us many examples of words that can be replaced with seemingly nonsensical alternatives.

Por exemplo:

"Beer" defaults to "adds"
"Cool" results in "book"
"Autumn" comes out as "buttons"

To make it more interesting, we also have to transcend the medium. We can't just be texting these substitute words, we have to add them to our everyday parlance. So I'm advocating that instead of saying, "Cool!" we should say "Book!" And minors should be talking about "processing some adds" instead of "drinking beers". Thwart that constabulary, kids! And from now on, "school starts in the buttons."

Do you have other examples of texting cipher speak?

Preferably something more novel than "them" vs. "then" or "ball" vs. "call".



At 12/08/2009 09:22:00 PM, Blogger Walaka said...

I wonder if the predictive typing across platforms is consistent enough to develop a commonality. I mean, there's only a few things that go with "bacon," which is part of the reason it works.

I never use the predictive text (it's too much Barney for me) so I can't play, me ol' China.

At 12/08/2009 09:36:00 PM, Blogger John said...

It's possible that this entire post is a cleverly designed opportunity for me to use "constabulary" as both an adjective and a noun.

At 12/10/2009 01:03:00 PM, Blogger John said...

Attempting to decipher Walter's two apparent contributions of Cockney-style rhyme slang: "Barney" and "China".

"Barney" is commonly paired with "friends"... as in the TV show Barney and Friends. It's also paired with Miller... as in the TV show Barney Miller. I'm sure there are other non-TV related Barneys in the world... but Barney Frank is the only one I can think of. Knowing Walter, I'll start with Barney Miller.

The quote was: It [texting] is too much ___ for me.

Miller rhymes with Filler. Was he saying: Texting is too much filler... not enough substance? A little odd, but possible... and the only one that I can think of that makes any sense at all.

Secondly: "me ol' China" should be easier... since "China" appears at first blanch to be a sobriquet for "pal". To confirm, we just have to find a word commonly paired with China that rhymes with pal.

Googling "China and" offers the following auto-fill options: Tibet, Taiwan, India, Africa, Tibet Conflict, US relations, US debt, communism, globalization. Hmm... that's a hard list to work with. China is also paired with the Great Wall... and "wall" almost rhymes with "pal." Is that what Walter was going for? Possibly. But I don't think so.

I think he was going for the Star Warsian term for a jedi apprentice: padawan, which kinda rhymes with Taiwan. Easy peasy. By saying "me ol' China"... Walter was really using Cockney slang precepts to let the attentive listener connect China to Taiwan to Padawan. Brilliant.

Indeed, I am a padawan... of Cockney slang!

At 12/17/2009 08:10:00 AM, Blogger molly said...

Ah the Cockney slang. Some of it's entered my lexicon with nary a lash batted. Now when I've got a cold I say I'm not feeling the Mae West, or sometimes I go down to the shops to have a butchers hook (or just a butchers) at the new merchandise. A mate of mine left his trouble and strife recently, and I also just found out that an acquaintance I was just talking about the other day is brown bread... or even just brown. His funeral is later this week.

As for the predictive text, I am fond of catching the number 14 cup to the city centre, and I really like it when everything is olew foldy!

At 12/17/2009 01:41:00 PM, Blogger John said...

I like it! Cockney slang additions:
Mae West = my best.
Butcher's hook = a look.
Brown bread = dead
Trouble and strife = wife.

And cell phone additions:
cup = bus
olew foldy = ???

Other cell phone ciphers I've recently noticed:
Home = Good.
As in, I can't go have some adds with you, I need to go good after work today.

And Food = Done
As in: That restaurant's got great done.

At 12/18/2009 02:03:00 PM, Blogger molly said...

Olew foldy = Okey Dokey

At 12/20/2009 08:09:00 AM, Blogger Scotty said...


You missed the most obvious Barney possible. You've dated yourself. You must be, like, 17 or something. I'd go with Barney Rubble. It could also be Barney Google, as in, it's not worth the stoogle. But, I'm not sure that stoogle is a word.

I'd go with, it's not worth the Barney Rubble, meaning, trouble.

And me ol' China I believe is an established slang, meaning china plate, meaning, me ol' mate.

Of course, you probably already know this and are just pulling our bacons with the padawan thing... right?

At 12/23/2009 04:26:00 PM, Blogger Jenny said...

saw this today: http://www.bbc.co.uk/comedy/extra/video/p00314b6/

thought of you!


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