Yesterday, the Internet Solved a 20-Year-Old Mystery

Lexicon Valley
A Blog About Language
Jan. 21 2014 3:54 PM

Yesterday, the Internet Solved a 20-Year-Old Mystery

metafilter.com

Photo by Ask Metafilter user JannaK

Yesterday afternoon, a woman seeking help with a decades-old family mystery posted a thread on Ask Metafilter titled "Decoding cancer-addled ramblings":

My grandmother passed away in 1996 of a fast-spreading cancer. She was non-communicative her last two weeks, but in that time, she left at least 20 index cards with scribbled letters on them. My cousins and I were between 8-10 years old at the time, and believed she was leaving us a code. We puzzled over them for a few months trying substitution ciphers, and didn't get anywhere.
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The index cards appear to just be a random series of letters, and had confounded the poster's family for years. But it only took Metafilter 15 minutes to at least partially decipher them. User harperpitt quickly realized she was using the first letters of words, and that she was, in fact, writing prayers:

Was she a religious woman? The last As, as well as the AAA combo, make me think of "Amen, amen, amen." So extrapolating -- TYAGF = "Thank you Almighty God for..."

It would make sense to end with "Thank you, Almighty God, for everything, Amen - Thank you, Almighty God, for everything, Amen, Amen, Amen."

Which harperpitt soon followed with:

AGH, YES! Sorry for the double post, but:

OFWAIHHBTNTKCTWBDOEAIIIHFUTDODBAFUOT
AWFTWTAUALUNITBDUFEFTITKTPATGFAEA

Our Father who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name... etc etc etc

The whole thread is fascinating. You should take a look at it. You might even be able to contribute.

A version of this post originally appeared on On the Media's TLDR.

Alex Goldman is a producer for the public radio show On the Media and co-creator of TLDR.

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