"i before e, except after c".
It's everyone's favourite spelling rule, and it comes in handy every time you want to receive a reprieve after a siege.
But then the rule lets you down when you plan a hiest to sieze some speceis from a wierd athiest sceintist who fanceis you.
So how does the rule live up to reality?
The chart below shows every 'ie' and 'ei' in English, grouped by the letter that comes before it, with the ones that obey the rule in green and the ones that break it in red.
The chart is mostly green, which seems like good news: the rule holds true 81% of the time.
But whose ridiculous idea was it to reverse the 'c' section? 'cie' is much more common than 'cei', so the "except after c" part actually makes the rule worse.
Change the rule to the snappier "i before e, always" and you're up to an 85% success rate.
"i before e, but only after consonants" would take you to 85.5%, but we're into pretty marginal gains at that point.
More details, if you're interested...
You can see the actual numbers in a spreadsheet here.
Source: SOWPODS, the word list for English-language Scrabble in most of the world. If you're from the USA, Canada, Thailand or Israel you might be used to the shorter TWL list. I've put the TWL numbers in another tab of the spreadsheet, and they're about the same.
In the chart, each 'ie' and 'ei' has the same area, which is why the rows have different thicknesses.
A word can appear multiple times: "oneiromancies" breaks both halves of the rule and appears in two red patches.
The bottom row shows the few words that begin 'ei'. There are no words that begin 'ie'.
This is some pioneering research I have done. Full explanation to follow, but you can probably work out most of it from the graph.
I've been meaning for a while to make an app called "I'm Wasting My Life".
You tell it your date of birth, and every now and then it buzzes to tell you something incredible that someone else achieved at your exact age.
I'll probably never get round to it, but here is my list so far of achievements, with a column showing when I reached that same exact age.
The list is much too male and British - please let me know people I've missed.
Here are some statistics on the achievements I'm including so far.
Most people achieve things between 20 and 50. I'm struggling to find anything in the 60s, and can't find a single achievement over the age of 80. If you're over 80 please do something massive to provide one.
Way too many men. Sorry.
It's way too Anglo-American. Sorry again.
Quite pleased with the variety here. I'd like more sport, but it's hard to find sporting achievements that are interesting to the whole world for all time, rather than just followers of that sport at the time.
I spent a lot of the summer of 2016 reading Beatrix Potter to my 2-year-old, and I became obsessed with trying to work out if the recurring characters all exist in the same universe.
So I started drawing myself a diagram of how they overlapped, and discovered:
Some interesting things about it:
I'm terrible at remembering the names of tunes that don't have words, and I get frustrated when one is stuck in my head and I have no way to track down what it is.
So I like to make up lyrics for them.
I think there are about 100 pieces of classical music that absolutely everyone knows through hearing them in the background in shops and films. Over many years I've worked out what most of them are, and I've written words to about thirty of them.
Two of the tunes are in this video I made for a competition in 2010, telling the history and synopsis of the opera Carmen in 40 seconds.
Another in the canon of Things I Never Got Round To Finishing.
In 2010 I had the brilliant idea of formalising all the handwaving explanations of Scottish Country Dancing into an XML format that describes exactly who does what when, and writing a web app that could animate any reel that you fed into it.
Here's a video of where I got to with it. It actually looks a lot better than I'd remembered, but now (2017) I don't think I even have the source code any more. Ah well.
This was my attempt as a student to draw a family tree of the whole of Greek mythology.
Some things about it: