Chances are you've seen this in your inbox:
"Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteers be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl 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."
Chances are you also understand it. It purports that the order of the letters inside a given word doesn't matter, as long as the first and last letters of each word are in the right place.
You can read the words because the human mind reads words as a whole, and not letter-by-letter.
Well, that's what it says. But while it's entertaining and ego-boosting (that is, if you can read it), it ain't exactly so.
The e-mail, while partially correct in its overall hypohsetis — um, hypothesis — is "very irresponsible in several important ways," says Denis Pelli, professor of psychology and neural science at New York University.
First of all — oops — there was never a study done at Cambridge University. And therein lies a tale.
The e-mail was originally sent around without mentioning Cambridge; it got added after the Times of London interviewed a Cambridge neuropsychologist for comment.
Matt Davis, a senior research scientist at Cambridge University's Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, spent some time tracking down the origin of this letter-transposition story.
He found that it comes from a letter written in 1999 by Graham Rawlinson, a specialist in child development and educational psychology, to New Scientist magazine in response to an article written about the effects of reversing short chucks of speech.