Firing Flying Fries

Aoccdrnig to rseracaeh cnodutced at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.

Aoccdrnig to rseracaeh cnodutced at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.

“Dude, what’s that smell?”

“Jack, what are you doing in my house at three in the morning?”

“Joining you for a cup of warm milk. It looks like it’s about to boil over.”

“Oops! Thanks, Jack. I was hoping maybe it would help me sleep.”

“That smell keeping you awake? What is it – wet dog fur?”

“No. I’m cleaning up after my son. He’s not feeling very well. I finally got him to sleep only a few hours ago.”

“So he had a bout with his stomach and lost, huh? Bad news, dude.”

“Yeah. I don’t think it is going to go any better tomorrow, especially if I can’t get any sleep tonight.”

“So why are you still up? I’d think you’d be tired after playing sewage removal.”

“I am, but I’ve been thinking a lot about Mirrodin lately, and it’s been keeping me awake.”


“You know, the most recent expansion block from Magic.”

“Oh. That game you are always playing. Don’t you ever think about anything else?”

“It’s hard to think about much else when you’d rather be sleeping.”

“Point taken. But I thought I heard someone else call it Mi-rah-din.”

“No, it’s pronounced Mirro-den. Like a mirror. Like in polished metal. Mirrodin is a metal world inhabited by creatures that are part metal, part flesh.”

“Cool, dude – like the Bionic Man?”

“Sorta, but these creatures aren’t really enhanced by metal. They just have metal in place of bone.”

“Mi-rah-din doesn’t sound like a very interesting place.”

“It’s Mirro-den. I usually don’t pay much attention to the background story, since it just adds flavor to the game and doesn’t affect the mechanics.”

“Flavor, like strawberry-banana? Mechanics as in machines, which are artifacts? Don’t artifacts like flavor?”

“No, flavor as in a background, something to make you feel like you’re pretending you’re not in the ordinary, everyday world. Think of a video game. Imagine playing Area51 with only black outlines to shoot at instead of aliens.”

“That would be pretty boring.”

“But if the aliens were merely outlines, it wouldn’t change how the game is played. The mechanics would still be the same.”

“So it’s kinda like Dungeons and Dragons. You can just go through and beat things up, or you can get more enjoyment by exercising your imagination.”

“A good analogy Jack. The hard-core tournament players tend to just go through and beat things up, while other players like to absorb the fantasy nature. I tend to be more like the hard-core tournament players.”

“So if this isn’t going to be about strawberry-banana ice cream, where are you going with this, dude?”

“When things are designed well, you can usually ignore them if you don’t care much about them. However, when they are designed poorly, you can’t help but notice them.”

“So what is it you don’t like about your precious game?”

“The names in this block. They’re unpronounceable.”

“You mean like Mi-ra-, I mean Mirro-den?”

“That’s just the tip of the iceberg. Take a look at this card.”

“Tel-Jihad Archers. So, what? These elves on a holy war against the artifacts?”

“It’s Tel-Ji-LAD. I didn’t notice it was an ‘l’ instead of an ‘h’ for almost three months. The spelling is too close to a known word. In a post 9/11-world, everyone’s mind wanders to terrorism and self-proclaimed holy wars. It is a pretty insensitive reminder, even if accidental.”

“I can see what you mean.”

“Giving something a name one letter from an established word is just the first cardinal rule of naming conventions that was broken. Take a look at this card.”

“Veldaken Engineer. Say, aren’t you an Engineer, dude? Shouldn’t you like that card?”

“I am an engineer, and its efficient mana acceleration makes it a good card in general. Which makes me despise the card even more.”

“Huh? I thought you just said you liked it.”

“I did, until I looked closer at the name.”

“Veldaken? Engineer? You don’t like the name Veldaken? You don’t like the name Engineer?”

“Sometimes, Jack, I think my five-year-old is smarter than you. Look at the name closely.”


“Stop! Look at it again.”

“Ved-…Ved-…Ved-al-ken Engineer?”

“It took me a while to figure out how to pronounce it. I decided ‘Vedal’ should be pronounced like ‘medal’, as in a gold medal you win at the Olympics. ‘Ken’ should sound like ‘kin’, as in your own people. Put it together and you get vedal-kin.”

“Vedal-kin? Sounds almost like a treat you would give your dog.”

“Now try saying it three times fast. Then try and do it while you are looking at the name.”

“Vedalken, Vedalken, Vedal- Woa, now you are messing with my mind, dude.”

“Seems like it, doesn’t it? It is because the name doesn’t follow English pronunciations like we are used to seeing.”

“You mean American?”

“Whatever, Jack. Like I was saying, we are used to only having two syllables for a word with a ‘kin’ ending if there is no vowel before the ‘k’, like Franklin, vulcan, jerkin, and so on. If there is more than one syllable before the ‘kin’ ending, we expect a preceding vowel, like Anakin and Millikin.”

“Are you just making up words now?”

“You need to brush up on your geek culture a little more, Jack. The crimes don’t end here, though. Domineer is another transgressor.”

“Doesn’t that mean to dominate?”

“Yes, it does. But there’s already a card called Dominate. They are almost the same, except Domineer can only steal artifact creatures while Dominate can steal any creature.”

“So, the cards behave like their synonymous titles. Almost the same, but have slightly different uses. I think that’s pretty clever, dude.”

“Clever doesn’t always mean elegant, especially when the two words sound almost alike. It’s too easy to get confused.”

“How so?”

“Imagine you are playing Dungeons and Dragons, and you’ve managed to find two potions, one called ‘Elixir of Rejuvenation’, the other called ‘Elixir of Renewal.’ One heals up to one hundred hit points, the other only ten.”

“Okay, I am following you so far.”

“You and two friends are exploring a marshy swamp when your band gets attacked by a swarm of Bog Imps. Normally these guys are nuisances, but a few of them are rabid. One of your friends is in decent shape, but he has been bitten by a rabid one and the poison is quickly getting to his nervous system. Your other friend hasn’t been poisoned, but he took the brunt of the attack and is losing blood fast. Your poisoned buddy needs the 10-point elixir to survive, but your other friend needs the 100-point serum for any hope of living past the next few moments. You’ve only got a split-second to figure out which is the right potion to give each friend if you don’t want both to die. Think you can remember which one the Elixir of Renewal is?”

“I would’ve written it on a piece of paper.”

“You don’t have any paper, Jack. Just your memory. My odds on you would be that I’d be one dead friend.”

“Thanks for the vote of confidence.”

“Odds are I’d get it wrong, too. People’s minds rely on association to differentiate things. When you’ve got names and abilities that are similar, it’s hard to tell them apart.”

“Boy these naming people really have you riled, don’t they?”

“What do you mean?”

“You’ve been going on about this all night. Look, the sun is already up.”

“Oh, man. I need to get some sleep if I am going to take care of a sick kid this morning.”

“So, you going to do something about this naming stuff?”

“I don’t really have much of a say in the matter, since Wizards hires their own staff to come up with the names for the cards.”

“So why are you going on about it?”

“Eh, I don’t know. I guess I was hoping if I whined enough, someone might hear me.”

“And do what?”

“Fire the naming engineer.”

“Better hope he’s not a vedalken, dude.”