This is an examination of Reverse Speech from a volunteer participant at David Oates’ seminar in 2017. The participant produced between 2 and 3 minutes of (FS) language. I have documented examples of what appear to be language, but whether it is or not is open to debate. Some of it may be coincidental. Some words are clearer than others.
There are a number of issues in identifying language. First of all, you have to be able to recognise what is actually said. If there is any audio quality issues, it becomes harder to identify, often resulting in a wide range of examples from different listeners. Noise, whether it is background or technical noise can result in masking of phonemes. In this audio there is some noise occurring.
In addition, all too often, what people consider to be ‘all there’, is actually not all there. There is some there – such as a certain number of acceptable phonemes, syllables etc – and the rest is projected into. That said, in normal speech one can record and listen to sections and the phonemes belonging to the words said are not all evident. We combine internalised grammar and context to understand what is said.
Secondly, when it comes to Reverse Speech, even if the reversal is (reasonably) phonemically and prosodically appropriate, it does not mean that it is language. In all the billions of words that are spoken each day in the world, if you reverse sections, there will be what sounds like language occurring. That does not make it language. Shorter reversals are more likely to be coincidental than long(er) reversals. Furthermore, we humans are quite adept at putting some kind of interpretation into something, valid or not. If Reverse Speech is genuine, it is only the longer reversals that are linguistically reasonable that will influence a broader group of people.
In the reversals below, I do not claim that everything is there linguistically as some of it is ambiguous, and I do not claim that everything is genuine as speech reversals.
RS: Save us your winter; I look mud
FS: Let say I have I have an assignment to do, I wouldn’t kind of leave it for the last minute, I would do it and then not hand it in, that’s the sort of person I am, and it’s almost like I’m I’m not sure whether I’m afraid of success or that I don’t feel [that I’m good enough. I don’t know which it is].
Save us your winter
Save us comes from whi[ch it is]. FS /t/ transforms to /v/ and [ch] produces the sibilant in us. your comes from wh[i]ch extending to the [w]. Winter comes from I don’t know, with /w/ from kno[w], /n/ from do[n’t tkn]ow and /t/ from [d]on’t.
I look mud
The very slight /f/ in enou[gh] is not considered as part of the RS. I comes from en[ou]gh. /l/ comes from e[n]ough, while goo[d] is not part of the RS. /k/ comes from [g]ood. Mud comes from that I’m with the /t/ glottal and not part of the RS.
Negative imagery occurs here, the winter and the mud produced by it. I look mud may be considered as representing ‘I look at mud’ or ‘I look like mud’. This is negativity or self-sabotage.
RS: Universe the whole we deserve – will catch the sun
FS: I love writing, I love uh academia, I’m not no [most successful person in the world, but ummh] I’m still hanging on in there trying to respond to my calling which I haven’t responded to yet.
Universe occurs behind bu[t ummh. The /m/ is extended in the FS allowing perception of /u/. /m/ can be perceived as /n/. The release of [u] in the FS just before /m/ can give perception of /v/. /t/ produces /s/. You know that’s is an alternative in place of universe.
the whole occurs behind [world b]ut. Elison of /d/ occurs in the FS/. /b/ produces an indistinct fricative which allows perception of the. We comes behind [in the w]orld, with in and the disappearing into a vowel-like sound. Deserve comes behind person. /n/ is perceived as /d/; however, /p/ can still be heard, so deserve is uncertain, and an assumption is made. This is the end of this section.
will catch the sun
Will comes behind succe[ssful], with /ss/ and /f/ disappearing in the RS. Catch occurs behind su[cce]ss; a /k/ sound can be perceived on the release of the /e/; [cc] produces a sibilant, however, tch is poorly produced. The sun comes behind [most su]; /m/ can be perceived as /n/; the is represented by su where a ‘ts’ sound is produced in reverse.
This documentation of course is a possibility, but only one. If there is any accuracy, then it appears that the speaker believes at some level that he should soar to great heights. This is probably an egoic aspect of himself; one that is different to the previous reversal about winter and mud.
RS: Let’s get August hot/pat; take my call
FS: I think that I have something within me that sabotages [that particular objective], and any other objective however sim[ple or complicat]ed, um, I’m not more …
Let’s get August hot/pat
Let’s comes behind objec[tive]; /l/ is one possibility, but other phonemes as well. And, /t/ transforms into /s/ as is typical in RS. Get is behind ob[jec]tive. August is behind par[ticular]. Hot/pat is behind [that p]articular. /p/ is possible, however it may be meant to be /h/ in the RS. The vowel is unrounded. This word is uncertain.
Take my call
Take is behind compli[cat]ed. My is behind c[omp]licated. There is some /p/ influence on the /m/. call is behind sim[ple or c]omplicated.
Words are reasonably sound examples, except for hot/pat and the ambiguous /l/ in let’s. August seems to be potentially positive for him, regardless of what the last word is in the first statement. There is either a desire for someone to listen to him, or alternatively, his own unconscious is telling him to listen to it.
RS: Wolf colours gonna win it (Wolf, I’m a fool, win it). Silver fuck on mm outside the boxer
FS: If one is successful and one feels like one isn’t good enough, [then you’re gonna feel like a fraud] well I feel like a fraud; I guess that’s the obvious answer [and it’s probably the answer that I’m not comfortable with]. Because it then leads back to not feeling good enough.
Wolf colours gonna win it or Wolf, I’m a fool, win it
Win it comes from then you. Wolf comes from [frau]d. The section with colours gonna or I’m a fool is indistinct. This comes behind gonna feel like. One may hear one or both versions, or something else entirely. What a person documents can be very easily something else, especially when the audio is not clear quality. The phonemes of the 2 versions are very different.
Silver fuck on (mm) outside the boxer
In silver, /s/ is perceived from the frication of wi[th]; sense of /l/ is from [w]ith, and /v/ also comes from the /w/ producing an approximation in reverse; er comes from the indistinct sounds of comf[ortable]. In fuck, /f/ comes from com[f]ortable, and /k/ from [c]omfortable. On comes from [no]t. mm comes from that I’[m]. In outside, out comes from [that I]’m – /t/ is glottal and disappears in the RS. /s/ is from an[s]wer, a[n]swer disappears in the RS, /d/ is assumed as asimilated into the following [th]. The comes behind proba[bly th]e. This /b/ disappears in the RS. /b/ comes from pro[b]ably. ox comes behind it[s pro]bably. er comes from [i]t’s.
It is unknown what the sounds in the middle of Wolf … win it is, and I can only guess. If colours is there, it is the colour of the wolf that will win it or lead to success. The other statement mentions a colour, silver, as well as a boxer. Perhaps his wolf needs to be silver, and in the image of a boxer, he will be able to fight for what he wants to achieve. So the boxer and the wolf are silver. Fuck on may be a term which means do it, get on with it. Note – I perceived the possibility of colours before I heard the other reversal with the colour silver. Nevertheless, it is indistinct and can be easily heard as something else, or it’s just gibberish.
RS: Save the wolf. Scandals, the laws they depart
FS: … leads back to not being good enough, and being successful, and treating like a [fool for being] successful. [So I think it’s all interrelate]ed.
Save the wolf
Save the wolf occurs behind [fool for being s]uccessful. The /v/ is more a /b/. The frication at f[or] gives some perception of the. Wolf comes at fool.
Scandals, the law they depart
Scandals occurs behind in[terrelat]ed. Initial /s/ occurs at interrela[t]ed. Between the [at], a /k/ sound or /t/ can be perceived, which here provides the [c] in RS. The /n/ occurs at interre[l]ated; sense of /d/ occurs between [el]; /l/ occurs at inte[rr]elated. Final /s/ occurs at in[t]errelated.
The laws occurs behind it[‘s all in]terrelated, with [in] representing the and [‘s all], laws. They occurs at th[ink]. Depart occurs behind [so I th]ink; /d/ at [th]; /p/ can be perceived from the release of so [I] think, which in reverse provides ramping up energy. /t/ occurs at /s/.
The /v/ is somewhat imprecise as it is more like a /b/ and the fricative noise would need to be accepted as ‘the’. But even if it is strongly perceived a /v/ even on close examination, it would have to be language rather than coincidental sounds. The problem with short reversals like save the wolf this is the chances of coincidence are increased than if there is a reasonably clear longer reversal.
RS: Seeking my (help?), assist my mother cope
RS: And the only way for me to come out to release my books to the publishers and then that would expose me and I’d have to come out and represent [my book but I’m I’m just very uncomfortable to do so].
Seeking my help
In seeking, the /s/ has some voicing, /k/ lacks aspiration, and [ing] is perceivable from uncom[fortable] in the FS, which is actually partly indiscernible in the FS, sounding like ‘uncommon’ ( Of course, this brings up an issue for RS. If the word was in the reverse speech, one might document it as ‘uncommon’ or something else, and not ‘uncomfortable’). I am making the assumption that the RS word is seeking. Note: One may just hear ‘seek’, however, there is an extra syllable there that is harder to hear. My comes from unc[om]fortable.
The word following is harder to ascertain. There is a light /k/ sound from un[c]omfortable, however, it appears to become extraneous to the RS and is not the start of the word. The word appears to start as the sound ramps up on the release of very in the FS, producing an ambiguous initial. The initial may be heard as /h/ or /g/ or even something else. This first part ends at the end of the word. The question is exactly which sound it ends at. In the FS, at ju[st v]ery, there is frication. If the word is ended just before that frication begins, it can sound like help or here (assuming a /h/ initial). If the word ends at just [v]ery, it can sound somewhat like health with the labiodental representing the dental phoneme.
Assist my mother cope
If the word is help, the beginning of the 2nd statement could be assist, behind FS just. /m/ in my and mother come from the repeated I’m. The consonant sounds in cope are from [b]oo[k].
I may be perceived at s[o], at the start. It is slight, and in the context and grammar structure I am treating it as extraneous, and have removed it. Also, I have taken some licence to cut out the last syllable which makes it sound like ‘copa’. I have found from time to time that there is a vowel-like syllable at the end which when removed creates a viable reversal of length. If one heard it all one may hear it as ‘motherfucker’ with a northern English [u]. However, it is more appropriately /k/ then /p/ rather than /f/ then /k/. It would be amiss to claim that that is what it said. It is just a possibility.
RS: Score (mummy?) night, in various towns
FS: In order to do that s [I have to ummh, I hand in my books], get them published and that will compel me to come forward, because I’m I’m kind of a believe it or not a bit of a (?) recluse; I’ve had to be by myself.
Score (mummy?) night
Score comes from b[ooks]; mummy from [in my b]ooks. Although characteristics of /b/ still occur, /m/ should be acceptable. The /mm/ is really /mn/ from i[nm]y. The word is not well formed, although sounds much like it on a general listening. Perhaps one may perceive it as money instead of mummy. Night is from I [han]d. The minor constriction that occurs after I makes for a sound perception of an unreleased /t/ as the final.
in various towns
in occurs at u[mmh]. /m/ can be perceived, however /n/ may be reasonable here. Various is behind [to u]mmh. /v/ can be perceived on the release of [u]mmh; /r/ occurs at the release of to and onset of u. /s/ occurs at /t/. towns occurs at [s I have]. /t/ perception occurs at /v/; /n/ perception occurs at the onset of I. There is an /s/ sound that occurs, which provides the end of towns, but I do not know whether this is from the speaker or someone else.
Discussion If it is ‘mummy’ it may refer to older women closer to the age of the speaker. If so, perhaps there is a desire, or an actual activity occurring around this. Of course, the sounds would have to represent ‘mummy’, and then any interpretation would have to be worthwhile. __________________________________________________________________________________
RS: Gotta be wri(k)ing the fat number for (Matt?). Here’s our villa. Her villa.
FS: I’m from an African-Caribbean background. I love writing. I love uh …
Gotta is indistinct – /g/ comes from bac[kg]round, however. Be is behind Cari[bbean b]ackground with consonant phonemes disappearing in [bbean] leaving [e], and /b/ is from [b]ackground. Writing comes behind Af[rican Car]ibbean. [rican] is indistinct in the FS, however, the combination of lowering the velar at /r/, the general vowel sound that is produced and the /n/ produces perception of ing. Perception of /k/ occurs at /t/, but I will assume that the word is writing. Number comes behind f[rom an]. Fat comes behind [Af]rican (/t/ assimilates with /n/ following). For (Matt?) comes behind [I’m f]rom.
Here’s our villa
Villa comes behind I love. Our comes behind [wri]ting. Here’s comes behind wri[ting]. It could be heard as ‘he’s’ or ‘his’, but is not grammatically appropriate.
Villa comes behind I love. Her comes behind uh.
There is an assumption of /t/ on the end of Matt. However, unless there is a Matt that can be associated with this, which is probably not the case, it is just gibberish, and should be ignored. If there is anything in this, fat number may refer to a sizeable amount of money, and villa associated with it. Of course, ‘I love’ probably produces ‘villa’ most of the time, and should only be considered in an appropriate context. This may or may not be the case here.
RS: We’ll test the sin/scene outfit
FS: [If one is successful] and one feels that one isn’t good enough, then you’re going to feel like a fraud.
We’ll test comes behind su[ccessful]. Behind [ssf] there is fricative noise which allows perception of wolf, although I am uncertain as to this for the reason that the syllable is weak in comparison to the following syllable/word, and it is possible the fricative noise may be extraneous in the RS. That said, there is no guarantee that it is we’ll or will. Test comes at su[ccue]ssful. /t/ comes from the reverse of the release of the [e]. Sense of st comes at the stop and sibilant created at [cc]. The is assumed from [s]uccessful; however can be perceived as to on closer listening. Sin/seen comes behind if o[ne is]. Outfit comes at [if o]ne. ou[t] assumed as a glottal, and /t/ assumed as a final.
It does not mean that what sounds like language is language, and here, this may constitute coincidental sounds. It is quite easy to provide an interpretation though, regardless. So, I will do that. Outfit is something one wears like the way one wishes to appear. In the FS, he talks of being concerned of feeling like a fraud if he don’t feel good enough. Sin outfit, that is wearing sin would be connected with fraud, while scene outfit may suggest to the speaker that he needs to try out playing a role, much like an actor, and not be so concerned about feeling like a fraud.