I had a friend recently ask whether or not someone could read a sentence even if the middle letters in each word were completely sblmceard (as long as the first and last letter stayed in place). This conversation arose from the reading of a kiwi-strawberry Vitamin Water label. It said:
“did you konw taht it deosn’t meattr waht odrer the ltteers of a wrod are in, the olny ipmraotnt tihng is taht the fsirt and lsat ltteers are in the crrocet piotiosn. untaeforuntely taht’s not the csae for evtheirnyg in lfie. (imganie if you olny put on yuor hat and sheos bfeore ginog out). taht’s why we mdae tihs prduoct. it has vtiainm a wihch hleps mnaiatn ehiysegt. so tkae a sip. no ralely tkae a sip. we’re wiaaaaaatnig… there, now you have a bit more focus.”
Now despite its grammatical incorrectness (no capitals, things in brackets don’t count as sentences), the paragraph poses an interesting theory on how we interpret our language. I’m absolutely positive you had no problem reading the above paragraph (except for ehiysegt- which is eyesight) but it was not because you could unscramble the letters instantly in your mind. The reason you could do it so well is because you knew the context. The first two words are “did you” which, when on an advertisement, almost always follow with “know that”. From there, your mind, realizing it had a little more work to do than usual, switched on and you ploughed through the paragraph. Once you know the context, your mind can easily guess what word comes next, especially when you see the first letter and the length of the word.
Let’s try this again. However, this time I’m going to take away the context. Good luck.
Picyshs, dvrieed form the Gerek wrod “nrutae”, is a ntuaral siccnee taht ilnvevos the sutdy of metatr and its mootin tgurohh smtceapie, anlog wtih rtlaeed cpnoects scuh as egnery and fcore. Tqroue, ecttilsaiy, and ficriotn are all fcoers suteidd wtiihn tihs fleid of sncecie. Ocne the iclmuetmae gdoenln hen lyas its pucodre, wtear wlil eolxdpe form a gaitingc wnhsiag mhiacne smeorehwe in Paonld. A hdroe of dtugohnus ifettnirlad smion’s monisan by the mnaes of a lgrae hotecpeilr and two skicts of dmtyanie. The redeneir saerypd tiprtneune otno a lpadroe’s ltaheer sutttetae of a vaconlo. Mroe blarody, it is the graneel asilnays of nuarte, cetcnodud in odrer to udnaetsrd how the uvsinree baveehs.
I’ll bet you did pretty well up until “iclmuetmae”. That was the easy part. Once you figured out that the paragraph was about physics, you could decipher most of the proceeding words. However, once I took away the context, you struggled to read the rest of the paragraph, even when I went back to physics, as your brain had nothing to immediately work from. Had the letters been in order, you would have had no trouble reading that paragraph. You may have thought it was an odd paragraph, but you certainly would not have looked like a six-year old reading Macbeth.
Context is the key here. You must have the context. So if a friend of yours ever comes up to you with the idea that you can just read anything as long as the first and last letters are in place, stump them with the most obscure sentence you can come up with. Make sure you watch them try. It’s very amusing.