Anagrams and anagramming

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Martin Gardner
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Anagrams and anagramming

Post by Martin Gardner » Thu Mar 06, 2008 8:24 pm

A bit more on this.

When I was talking about definitions, it's true that they help some people, and alright I'll come out and say I like to know the definitions if they're somewhat usable - quite a lot of Countdown words tend to turn up later in life, and you can add the definition to the word. I don't object to people learning the meanings, I just know if I make a list of 20 words with 20 meanings, I'll be able to remember both - but I won't be able to remember which definition goes with which word! So it's actually much much more than twice the work to learn the definitions. And if it's something like MURIATE then it's an obscure chemical term which is out of date anyway, so you may never use it in a conversation.

I'm thinking about how I learnt to do anagrams, as obviously I'm not inside anyone else's head so I don't know. And I do think there are different approaches to it anyway so I can't speak for all of them. I started off looking for endings - ER, ED, ING, IER, IEST and whatnot. I think from there you notice that some word recur quite often so you just need to recognise when the letters are there - so if there's AEIMNRT you know RAIMENT and MINARET are there, even though they don't use the -ER ending. And basically what you really need is a phenomenal memory and ability to recall the words. I think some contestants struggle because they just look for endings, so something like ASTROID is extremely difficult to spot, whereas PAINTERS is very easy. But if you learn to recognise when letters are there, you're not actually doing any anagramming, it just recognising that EMANRTI is the same as AEIMNRT which gives MINARET. This is how some player solve things so quickly, there's not doing any anagramming they just recognise what the letters are and recall the solution.

One particular symptom of this is that I'm poor and solving anything that involves proper nouns, more than one word or more than 10 letters because those words aren't coded into my brain. One from a pub quiz was SIT MONKEY, the name of a famous sportsperson which someone else on our team got.


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Charlie Reams
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Re: Anagrams and anagramming

Post by Charlie Reams » Thu Mar 06, 2008 9:16 pm

Mark Nyman wrote:When I've thought about how the brain stores words, letters and letter arrangements, I've concluded it's like a turntable with loads and loads of little thin flashcards.
Interesting thought from a man who'd know.

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