Last Bytes

Last Bytes

by / March 31, 1999
Net Rumors Debunked? I'll Drink to That

Every now and then, I get an e-mail from someone claiming to have proof of Microsoft's evil intentions.

Sometimes, the "proof" lies in some complex theroy of global conspiracy linking everyone on the Trilateral Commission to Bill Gates. More often, the supposed evidence can be found in Microsoft Word.

Each time it's a little different. But they all have one thing in common: the thesaurus function in the popular word processor.

"Type in, 'I'd like Microsoft to rule the world,'" they say. Then highlight it and choose the thesaurus. Those of you who wish to follow along at home can feel free to boot up and give it a try.

Done? What'd you get?

"I'll drink to that."

Try rephrasing it. Try, "I hope Microsoft will rule the world."

The thesaurus offers up, "I should say so."

Try typing in "I'd like Microsoft to make my car payments." Type "I hope we have chicken for dinner." Better still, type in "I'd gooby gerple wang dang doo."

Guess what? The results are the same. Word'll drink to them all. And that makes it one stupid would-be urban legend.

Per Anderson, who works for the software behemoth, said the strange thesaurus answers were not the result of a bug or an errant programmer. Rather, the result of human nature and idle hands.

"Clever users will always be able to come up with phrases that 'outsmart' the thesaurus, no matter how 'smart' we make it," he said. "The Word thesaurus returns synonyms that are stated in terms and phrases that customers use in everyday language. When a customer searches for a synonym, the thesaurus will return an alphabetized list of words and phrases that have a similar meaning to the search term."

Obviously, not even Microsoft can categorize every possible phrase -- at least not yet. All the software can do is pony up some options based on what it already knows -- the alphabet.

"When a customer searches for 'I'd,' the thesaurus indicates that a synonym is not found and returns a list that is close alphabetically but are not related in their meaning," he said. "This list contains the phrase 'I'll drink to that.' Creative users will occasionally find search terms that when matched with their closest alphabetical synonym, result in funny or offensive meaning."

I'll drink to that, Per. -By Ed Mazza for

All Guts, No Glory, a site promoting cutting-edge cosmetic surgery, made headlines in January by announcing that it would broadcast live over the Internet a liposuction procedure. Yet this tasteless bit of self-promotion was neither the first nor the last sample of surgical verit