“Telephone me Ishmael.” – 10 Spun Classic Literature Opening Lines

In the past it would have been fair to say that technology and the internet in combination have created a few things that ruined writing (or at least had a damn good go at doing so!). One of those things which I have experienced first hand is the concept of “spinning” text as it was an old favourite* of internet marketeers who wanted to plagiarise text without making it look like they were plagiarising anything.

Spun text is like the original but with words or phrases replaced by different ones that broadly mean the same thing – at least that was the plan! However, the Thesaurus Spinner – a piece of software that would pick out synonyms and drop them in, seemingly at random – had a habit of reproducing work that was at best, crazy and at worst  completely unreadable.

To prove how draft spun content is, I’ve done something that literature buffs the world-over will hate me for – I’ve taken 10 opening lines of some of the most noteworthy literature classics in the English language and ran them through a Thesaurus Spinner. WARNING: this is entertaining, but also pretty sacrilegious at the same time!

NB: In some places I have had to modify the output of the spinner slightly to make it readable, some of what was produced made no sense what so ever!

The Spun Texts

The King James Bible

“In the inception God developed the heaven along with the earth”

I had to start somewhere and the beginning seemed like an apt place; this is where a certain monotheistic deity (God) did something, I wanted to know that the Spinner thought that would be.

(It’s interesting to note that a modern day Thesaurus Spinner really struggled with the King James Bible – which isn’t surprising as it can struggle with modern-day grammar let alone something more biblical.)

Original:

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.

Spun:

In the inception God developed the heaven along with the earth.

And also the  earth  are generally with no  form and invalid; in addition, there was an absence of light on the face of deep. Along with the Spirit connected with God moved on ones face of any waters.

American Psycho

“ABANDON almost all HOPE YE which ENTER”

A controversial classic by Bret Easton Ellis starts with the inscription on the entrance of hell, taken from Dante’s Divine Comedy – safe to say that the spun interpretation has taken the “comedic” aspect a bit too seriously.

Original:

ABANDON ALL HOPE YE WHO ENTER HERE is scrawled in blood red lettering on the side of the Chemical Bank near the corner of Eleventh and First and is in print large enough to be seen from the backseat of the cab…

Spun:

ABANDON almost all HOPE YE which ENTER HERE is scribbled in blood red lettering on the side of the Chemical Financial Institution near one’s corner of Eleventh as well as First and is actually in copy large enough in order to be seen by the backseat of your cab…

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

“You don’t understand about me without your employ”

Another controversial classic which some will no doubt find hard to read (for more reasons than one); never more true when looking at the spun article, considering the amount I had to edit the output before it was barely understandable. I don’t think there’s ever going to be an “easy” version of Huck Finn’s adventures to digest, that that hasn’t got any less true now…

Original:

You don’t know about me without you have read a book by the name of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer; but that ain’t no matter.

Spun:

You don’t understand about me without your employ read a great book by the title of a Adventures of Tom Sawyer; but the item ain’t not any matter.

The Witches

“witches always are clothed in unintelligent black hats”

From one of my favourite authors, this book about child-hating witches – the opening explains – is real and not a fairy-tale! The spun version is even more grisly and horrible (and unreadable) too!

Original:

In fairy-tales, witches always wear silly black hats and black coats, and they ride on broomsticks. But this is not a fairy-tale. This is about REAL WITCHES.

Spun:

In fairy-tales, witches always are clothed in unintelligent black hats in addition to black tunics, and also they ride with brooms. But this really is not the fairy-tale. That is all concerning genuine WITCHES.

Moby Dick

“Telephone me Ishmael.”

I think Melville might agree that this interpretation may have been lost in translation slightly… what do you think?

Original:

Call me Ishmael.

Spun:

Telephone me Ishmael.

Lolita

“Lolita, light regarding my life, fire involving my loin.”

So when I said this was all English language literature, you’d think that using Nabakov is a bit of a cheat, but he actually wrote it in English first, meaning that his word play was very intentional. Shame it was ruined when it came into contact with the Thesaurus Spinner!

Original:

Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta.

Spun:

Lolita, light regarding my life, fire involving my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of a tongue taking a good trip involving three ways down the palate to be able to tap, with three, towards the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta.

Pride and Prejudice

“It is an information universally recognised…”

I don’t think there’s anything I can say that’ll make the what’s to follow any easier for Austen fans – I can try and protest that this isn’t my fault, but that’s not entirely true, is it?

Original:

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.

Spun:

It is an information universally recognised, the item an individual man in tenure of a good fortune must always require a wife.

The Catcher and the Rye

“many types of that David Copperfield form of twaddle”

There’s little sense to be had from the spun version of Salinger’s most noteworthy piece of fiction, but somehow I believe “types of that David Copperfield form of twaddle” will stay with me for a while.

Original:

If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.

Spun:

Regardless of whether people really want to hear exactly about it, the primary thing you may probably want to know will be where in which I was born, along with my frightful childhood, and just how my parents were occupied and before that they me, and many types of that David Copperfield form of twaddle, however I don’t seem like entering it, if you wish to be aware of truth.

Slaughter House 5

“Just about all this happened, perhaps more or perhaps less.”

Vonnegut’s way with words has always chimed with me, and some people have said there are echo’s of that in my own work – but safe to say that all of that is lost when introduced to a Thesaurus Spinner. I’ve ran this through I couple of times and the version I settled on somehow stays quite poetic, just for the wrong reasons.

Original:

All this happened, more or less.

Spun:

Just about all this happened, perhaps more or perhaps less.

A Tale of Two Cities

“it was the most exceedingly bad of times… it was the period of silliness”

This is perhaps the most noteworthy opening passage here, “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times” is known far beyond those who have read Dickens or even heard of who he is. The one thing I will say here, this example almost shows how close the Thesaurus Spinner can come to accidental creativity.

Original:

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

Spun:

It was the best of times, it was the most exceedingly bad of times, it was the time of insight, it was the period of silliness, it was the age of conviction, it was the age of wariness, it was the time of year of Light, it was the period of Darkness, it was the spring of trust, it was the winter of misery, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all set coordinate to Heaven, we were all going immediate the other path -in short, the period was so far similar to the present period, that some of its noisiest powers demanded its being appropriated, for exceptional or for malicious, in the superlative level of examination just.

The all Lived Happily Ever after! Sort of…

So there you have it! How much of the above was particularly painful to read? Or did you find some of it an improvement? Does anyone think that “Telephone me Ishmael” or “ABANDON almost all HOPE YE which ENTER” both have a certain ring to them?

Thankfully this practice within digital marketing is well on the way to dying out as high quality content is the name of the game – but I have to admit, there was something fun (on a sadistic level) of doing this to literary works!

What would you run through a Thesaurus Spinner? Would any good come of it?


*No longer is – thank God! Back to Top

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A writer-meets-SEO with a passion for all things creative and digital marketing. Chris is interested by all things interesting and will write about almost anything (interest not required - but it helps!). SEO & Content Manager at StrategiQ Marketing by day and new Dad of one and writer by night; previous work includes a BAFTA award winning game, self published short story collection a ton of verbose articles about games, international eCommerce websites and more.

2 Thoughts.

  1. I can’t help wondering what it would make of some of the monologues in A Clockwork Orange!

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