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Anyone who has ever used a mobile phone with predictive text messaging will know the feeling. You type what you think will be one word—for example “save”—and it comes out as another (in this case “rate”). Other common examples include “if” (producing “he”) and “bus” (“cup”). That second one is especially annoying: “bus” is a far more common text word than “cup,” so why does keying in the sequence 287 produce the latter? These words have a name: they are “textonyms.” There are a few particularly appropriate ones: “Smirnoff” produces “poisoned,” while “kiss” gets “lips.” I once texted a friend…

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