Variations on a Theme: "I Becomes We..."
I was in Oregon last week, staying with my aunt and uncle, and on the way to their place I passed a church with a sign that read:
When I becomes we, illness becomes wellness
Now, normally I really like pithy little sayings like that. I love playing with language, and discovering insights (intentional or otherwise) that come from changing the way we look at words and meanings.
This one just annoyed me, though. The more I thought about it, the more it irked me. It was trying to be pithy and meaningful, but it fell short of the mark. It just didn’t work for me.
But I wondered if I could find some that worked better. It seemed like it would be a simple matter of parsing a dictionary file, replacing substrings in each word and seeing which ones resulted in real words.
The script was easy enough to write. I started simple, working with the original “I becomes we” theme:
- When I becomes we, inch becomes wench.
- When I becomes we, it becomes wet.
Then I experimented a bit with puns:
- When I becomes eye, kid becomes keyed.
And with changing cases:
- When me becomes us, permeable becomes perusable.
- When me becomes us, homey becomes housy.
Those weren’t quite going where I wanted (except for the “it becomes wet” one, which I actually kind of liked.)
So I started casting about for other small words that could be swapped:
- When a becomes the, nearmost becomes nethermost.
That one almost crossed the threshold of pithiness, but the “a” versus “the” thing was too tenuous. I started wondering if I could play with the sentence itself, where “becomes” could be understood more than one way.
- When he becomes old, cheer becomes colder.
- When he becomes fat, heal becomes fatal.
- When it becomes cold, sit becomes scold.
Better… this was moving in the right direction. I next tried waxing proverbial, and experimented with other structures, moving away from “becomes”:
- When he turns to ale, she turns to sale.
- When over is out, lover is lout.
- When she says no, masher becomes manor.
That “says” form inspired me especially:
- When pa says no, sparingly is snoringly.
- When ma says no, smart goes snort.
- When ma says you, mars is yours.
Well all was said and done, though, my favorite one used the original “becomes” form:
- He becomes rich, and theology becomes trichology.
I really hope someone puts that on a real church billboard somewhere.
The script for searching the dictionary for a particular pairing was pretty trivial, but if you’d like to play with it, I’ve posted it as a gist. If you find some good pairings, let me know!