We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

“… doilible … snoiggal … wacespink … disclorping … thription .. illarptacture …”

What do you think these are?

feg – jes – vok – gop – ruch – dez – thob – cag – shug – wiss – miff – sleck

Words that used to exist, but which have fallen out of use? Words that ought to exist, to describe things that exist, but now have no word attached to them so that we can talk about them? Douglas Adams produced a little book called The Meaning of Liffe, or something similar, full of such concepts, with suggested words to describe them. “Pimlico – the pool of stale beer into which the barman deposits your change” etc. etc. Ruch – to vomit or cough violently, while still trying to rush for a bus or appointment. Sleck – to refrain so ostentatiously from performing one’s duties that even very, very posh people, who hardly do any work themselves, notice. And miff? Well, isn’t that a word already? Are we not “miffed” if things don’t happen as we wish? So miff must be the verb of that, surely. And “gop” is the Republicans, isn’t it?

sprell – creld – splind – fland – blim – flut – smez – shrid – sprund – shrong – brost – flamp

Still don’t know? Clue: it’s to do with learning to read. These “words” are to be found on page 17 of the latest Newsletter, No. 50, from the Reading Reform Foundation.

spow – clirt – throrn – scight – droy – scray – troud – drair – weeg – grort – ploon – frarp

I support the Reading Research Foundation, in the sense that I pay to get these newsletters and agree, for whatever that may be worth, with what they are trying to do. And what they are trying to do is beat some sense into all the senseless fools who now, still, preside over the teaching – or non-teaching – of literacy in the schools of Britain, indeed of the entire Anglo Saxon world.

The trouble with the RRF’s literature is that most of us can only concentrate on it for so long. This is because the argument is changing only with glacial slowness. The RRF explains that the best way to teach reading is to teach “synthetic phonics”. This means – warning: I may get this somewhat wrong – first learning what sounds are made by which letters and letter combinations, and then spelling out the entire word by spelling out each letter or letter combination. Something like that. The Satanic Tendency, for these purposes, are the Morons From Hell who believe that the way to read words is to guess them by looking only at the first letter or two, or by looking at accompanying pictures, or by looking at the shape made by all the letters together. “Whole word” and “look and say” are the phrases to watch out for if you want to catch a (il)literacy Satanist at work and drown him in your village pond.

The RRF people, although very determined and hardworking, are by their nature rather earnest and systematic people, who have got hold of the right way to teach reading and writing, and don’t really know what else to do except repeat themselves until enlightenment finally erupts. What they are not so good at is spicing up their stuff to make it catch the attention of civilians. Partly, of course, this is because they are absolutely sure that “spicing up” the material is absolutely how you should not teach reading and writing itself. Pictures and irrelevant joking and general side-issues are to be avoided like the mental plague that they are. Thus, RRF type people tend to have a puritanical devotion to their truth, and positively to dislike – to be exceedingly miffed by, you might say – all the trivia and silliness (as well as deadly seriousness) that an operation like samizdata.net brings to the business of spreading good ideas.

cleab – scrule – gurt – hoint – splafe – scry – chie – floke – grooring – shrawed – scurnly – slared

Ho ho ho, or if you prefer it, hoe hoe hoe. (I don’t like “Heh”, for some reason. Don’t know why.)

Okay I’ll tell you what it is. It’s Ruth Miskin’s Nonsense Word Test. Ruth Miskin is one of the bigger names of the Synthetically Phonic world, and this test is to see if those subjected to it actually spell out the words they “read”, or merely guess.

I’ve kept the best ones until last, as does Ruth Miskin, the best ones being, of course, the most elaborate and complicated ones.

phantrite – strowble – frubehabe – doilible – snoiggal – wacespink – disclorping – thription – illarptacture – naightentance – stobosaurous – feanlissable

Are you spelling out these “words” in their entirety? Congratulations. You can read.

Here’s how the page ends.

Letters should be read as sounds, not names. (Note: When the test is used as an rml entry assessment, allow 4 seconds a word. Stop when 2/3 errors are made in one box.) Complete test as far as is possible to ascertain breadth of phonic knowledge and blending ability. Tester has separate copy to record reader’s response for detailed assessment. This test should be given in conjunction with a real word and comprehension test to ascertain reader’s full skills in and out of context.

So now you know.

12 comments to “… doilible … snoiggal … wacespink … disclorping … thription .. illarptacture …”

  • ‘It seems very pretty,’ she said when she had finished it, ‘but it’s rather hard to understand!’ (You see she didn’t like to confess, even to herself, that she couldn’t make it out at all.) ‘Somehow it seems to fill my head with ideas — only I don’t exactly know what they are! However, somebody killed something: that’s clear, at any rate — ‘ ….

  • c colbert

    The RRF web site tells me how great it is but never tells me anything about synthetic phonics so I can evaluate the idea myself. Just like Dianetics and other groups. Interestingly, the description of synthetic phonics on samizdata sounds like the way I was taught to read around 1960 in the USA. The “Satanic” method, apparently used in schools in the UK sounds suspiciously like New Math, the scheme for rendering arithmetic impenetrable to all humans. If you guys are really using New Math and New Reading, I can see how you could be conned in to believing that the NHS could be made to work.

    Could someone explain this to me? (No I don’t know how we are teaching reading and arithmetic now a days. We are probably doing something dumass.)

  • One of the “nonsense” words is actually a perfectly good word! “Scry” means “to predict the future.”

    I predict that everyone will be underwhelmed by this revelation…

  • Brian, you are hereby outed as a past or present player of Dungeons and Dragons, as you show evidence of exposure to the overlarge thesaurus of E. Gary Gygax. Final proof of this will be if you know what “Dweomercraft” means….

  • John F

    Another word, “blim”: well, it may not be an accepted word, but it is fairly common slang for a very small piece of cannabis resin.
    In case you ever wanted to know.

  • John Thacker

    Various tests also show that the literate can distinguish between random non-words that could be words in English (following linguistic patterns that exist in the language) and those that couldn’t. Not only are the possible non-words read much faster, but the difference in brain activity is fascinating.

  • Floke drair weeg snoiggal, feg shrid brost!

  • Ted Schuerzinger


    How do you know Brian isn’t an avid Scrabble player? I learned words like jato and rato by playing Scrabble, not by reading technical aviation journals. 🙂

  • There’s a clear summary of the idea on the Phono-Graphix website
    Brian has it wrong. Words consist of sounds, and letters (or letter groups) are pictures of these sounds.
    The first thing to learn is to break the words you speak into sounds, and then learn what symbols represent these sounds. English is hard beacus not only do we have mutiple symbols for the same sound, but we also have overlap, where the same symbol can represent several different sounds.
    Careful ordering of the teaching of these symbols can help childrren cope wiht the ambiguity, but you have to understand that the soudns are primary and the symbols secondary, not vice versa.

  • Damn you, Tim Hall! My secret is now known to the world!!!

    Actually, though, I came across the word (in the form “scrier,” one who predicts the future) in Roger Zelazny’s Creatures of Light and Darkness.

    And “dweomercraft” is Gygax’s pretentious word for “magic” — at least, I think that’s what he meant…(I’ve not looked at D&D stuff for 20+ years, so I may be mistaken)

  • Julius

    C Colbert:

    “If you guys are really using New Math and New Reading, I can see how you could be conned in to believing that the NHS could be made to work.”

    But itt does werk! Wating lists are down and their is less deth than befor.

  • I am a university student and I am researching RML do you have any further information on this strategy. Any criticism or further comments.
    Thank you
    Susan Fenn