Home Key Blunder

Those of you who can actually type without looking at your keyboard know that sometimes your fingers accidentally land on the wrong home keys. Sometimes you don’t notice the mistake until you look up and see the gibberish you are typing. But this week I wondered, “Is it always gibberish?”

Since I am teaching my son to program using Python, I decided to build a Python program to put wings on my curiosity. Below are the results:

(1) Upper Row Blunder — Meaningless

If you accidentally place your hands on the row above the home board, your left little finger rests on “q” and your upper left pinkie rests on “p”. So in that position, if you try to type “slash”, you get “woqwy”.

I searched more than 40,000 common English words and found that all of them generate pure gibberish.  I was disappointed because I wanted to find at least a few special words.  But alas, sometimes our basic settings are so bad that we can’t generate anything meaningful.

(2) Right Shift Blunder — Ah Ha !

Instead of shifting up, if you accidentally shift your hands over one letter to the right, your left pinkie rests on “s” and your right pinkie rests on “semi-colon”. In that position you get the follow special words:

  • air –> sot
  • art –> sty
  • awed –> serf
  • bi –> no
  • bur –> nit
  • by –> nu
  • dib –> fond
  • die –> for
  • dub –> fin
  • due –> fir
  • dye –> fur
  • fir –> got
  • gun –> him
  • hit –> joy
  • id –> of
  • in –> om
  • nu –> mi
  • our –> pit
  • owe –> per
  • rib –> ton
  • rub –> tin
  • rust –> tidy
  • set –> dry
  • sir –> dot
  • six –> doc
  • sub –> din
  • sun –> dim
  • ti –> yo
  • tub –> yin
  • two –> yep
  • us –> id
  • view –> bore
  • wear –> erst
  • wee –> err
  • ya –> us
  • yaw –> use
  • yaws –> used
  • yo –> up


Sometimes the mistakes we make generate pure nonsense, other times it takes us a while to find our gross errors because of accidental meaning our mistakes generate. Some of us never discover that our hands are on the wrong homekeys because we are so delighted by a few accidental meaningful words.

Question for readers:

  1. Are my allusion clear?
  2. Can you find a meaningful sentence from these words that creates a meaningful sentence from the mistaken position?
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Filed under Philosophy & Religion

11 responses to “Home Key Blunder

  1. Ian

    Love this experiment! Couldn’t make anything particular sensible from the words though.

  2. Thanx Ian — from a computer Dude, that’s a real kudo!

  3. Sabio – Man, you are one clever dude! You’ve got idle smarts just begging to be used. As for the keyboard, you are aware, I bet, that the present design is gibberish for a reason. The layout is as it is because users of the old hammer-key typewriters needed to be SLOWED down to avoid jammed keys. Talk about cultural inertia. Because no new generation is willing to expend energy learning a new keyboard layout, we are stuck with zxcvnm,.!

  4. Thanx Andrew. Yes, I was aware of that. Did you enjoy the metaphorical allusions?

  5. Wow, that’s a great exercise! I’ll have to borrow the idea for the math club; it’s a really cool way to introduce kids to the idea of information coding efficiency. IMO, it’s one of the most exciting and important stories of our current age.

    When communicating via symbols, our languages make tradeoffs about how much repetition is necessary to have a good confidence level in the accuracy of the transmission. In contrast to written English, the communication mechanism used in the African talking drums was such that nearly any message would be meaningful, even if there were mistakes in transmission.

    As far as metaphorical allusions go, Andrew at GodWillBeGod has been talking about myth as a mechanism of communicating an understanding of reality, and he raises the point that myth is far more expressive than other mechanisms, but also far more prone to error — when things get screwed up, people still read meaning into the myth instead of just seeing gibberish. I see this as very similar to “talking drums”. That’s not necessarily bad. It identifies one reason I love both myth and hip-hop so much — with myth, you have a ton of spillover in connotation because of the richness of symbols, while you have the exact same connotational bleedover in hip-hop due to associations of rhythm patterns in the language (exactly like talking drums).

    In any case, things get fun when you start imagining that you can manipulate the communication channel. For example, in your experiment, what would happen if you tried different keyboard arrangements? Could you optimize the keyboard for either more or less gibbberish on error? Or what would happen if you switched your vocabulary entirely to acronyms such as those used in sending text messages? Things get really exciting when you imagine that the communication channel is being manipulated by two mortally opposed enemies who want to communicate clearly to those they elect, and hide themselves from those they do not elect.

    This was the story of Claude Shannon and Alan Turing in WWII, but it’s more important than ever today. Check out this account of Iraq’s Secret War. This involved NSA’s mathematicians against a fairly backward enemy using industry-standard encoding mechanisms, so it’s safe to say that things will get much, much more interesting in future conflicts. And of course, it’s not just about roadside bombs — it’s how all important projection of power is done now.

    Earlier this week, I attended a presentation by the guy who wrote this paper, which is just one very interesting step in the ongoing story. Just imagine where things will be in another 20 years, and then imagine our advanced mathematical knowledge being deployed in a future economic or military conflict. There is something universal and inevitable about this march of progress, and you’re wise to get your kids excited about it now.

  6. @JR Allen

    Could you optimize the keyboard for either more or less gibbberish on error?

    WOW! Great(¿) minds think alike. After posting yesterday, I experimented with that exact notion. I tried a few different key mappings to test exactly that idea. I came up with one that found 167/40,000 as opposed to 37/40,000 in the Right Shift Blunder. For that mapping I consulted a English vocabular frequency list and first, mapped vowels to vowels but put high frequency vowels with high frequency vowels. Then I did consonant to consonant in the same way. I thought, if I map ‘x’ to ‘a’ , ‘w’ to ‘e’ and so on, I will get no words, so that the opposite should obviously be much more fruitful. Right before going to bed, I thought, “Gee why don’t I build a program which randomizes mappings, and keeps track of lexicon output size searching for the largest. But with 26 letters and >40,000 words to search, the permutations would tie up my machine far too long and I don’t imagine finding something more meaningful that I have already exposed with these examples.

    Sometimes, one hits a critical trade-off level for the benefit of diving further into details particular to the arbitrary system vs significant deep layer insights. I find this when studying religious theology, for instance.

    What do you think?

    Thanx for the link to Shacktman’s article on electronics – fascinating! I never knew about that — great article. The other paper was too much for me, but thanx for the thought.

  7. @ JS Allen
    PS — I knew my new mapping was a message from Krishna when it generated the following:
    yum –> now
    yin –> nut
    sin –> cut
    dull –> loss
    and finally:
    tit –> nun

  8. Could it reflect a certain design by the keyboard designer, and it works out for the same reasons that it is a better organization than having the letters in alphabetical order? For example going up from AS gives you QW but across gives you SD much more common letters. Just a thought.

  9. GaryD

    @Sabio Lantz

    1. Are my allusion clear?
    Very Clear!
    2.Can you find a meaningful sentence from these words that creates a meaningful sentence from the mistaken position?
    use us up for joy of him

    Good theology produced by atheist home key shift.
    That settles it.

  10. Thanx, GaryD:

    “Use us up for joy of him” –> would come from the intent to type:
    “Yaw ya yo die hit id gun.”

    Not a sensible intent. I found it difficult too to find a combo.

    How about: Intended “Ya view him”–> Mistake “Us bore gun”

  11. GaryD

    1. Are my allusion clear?
    Your allusions can make some illusions evident.
    Yaw: move to side
    ya: you
    yo: answer the roll call
    die: lose force
    hit: come to light (hit upon)
    id: “the part of the psyche, residing in the unconscious, that is the source
    of instinctive impulses that seek satisfaction in accordance with the
    pleasure principle and are modified by the ego and the superego
    before they are given overt expression.”
    gun: “verb (used without object), verb (used with object), gan, gun,
    gin·ning. Archaic. to begin.

    Best I could do:
    imperative: Come aside you, pay attention, slow down, understand, get started.
    means: use us up for joy of him

    Brain dead now,

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