Notes from a Linguistic Mystic

After a recent chance discussion with a social psychologist who has studied alternative keyboard adoption, and in the face of recent hints at an RSI from my wrists, I’ve decided to learn to touchtype using the Dvorak keyboard layout. Although the layout itself is fascinating, as it’s taking into account the relative frequency of different letters (poorly representing sounds) in the English language, I’ve also been taken with another interesting phenomenon which seems to go on in typing tutor websites.

Sometime back, I wrote about “pine thugs”, improbable word combinations forced by attempts to create good example s of two sounds together in phonology classes (like “pine thugs” or “squirrel thrills”). It would appear that the designers of typing courses have a similar phenomenon, stemming from their search for words and phrases which are made up of only the letters that they’re drilling. A few examples from the typing tutor website that I’m currently using:

Note the teen not the tutu

Tess Sutton notates the tenuous state that southeast Houston has seen

Dennis Hudson is hidden in a distant Tunisian hashish hideout

Auntie Edith tends to hint that Edna heeds the ideas due to Satan

Frankly, the fact that the examples can as much sense as they do using only the homerow probably says a great deal about the efficiency of the layout, but these entertaining word sequences (“Dvoraks”, perhaps?) have made this learning process much more entertaining than it could have been.

And, 20 minutes into typing even this short post (on two days of practice with the layout), entertainment is a wonderful thing.


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