Chatterbox hates to see the online world kowtow to White House pressure. But that’s what he suspects PhoneSpell of doing. PhoneSpell is a free service that converts phone numbers into easy-to-remember phrases. Does PhoneSpell have the guts to convert the phone number for the president of the United States into a handy mnemonic? It does not. When Chatterbox enters the number he gets the following message:
Believe it or not, we did not find any interesting mnemonics for 202-456-1414. Everything is working fine, this is not a bug. Some numbers just have such odd combinations of letters and/or too many zeroes and ones that they simply do not have good mnemonics. Sorry.
When Chatterbox eliminates the area code and tries again, he gets the same message: No dice.
PhoneSpell’s failure to provide a White House mnemonic threatens the delicate balance of power between our three branches of government. For Congress (202-224-3121 or 225-3121), PhoneSpell serves up
which aren’t brilliant, but are better than nothing. If you eliminate the area code, you get the more suggestive
PhoneSpell does better with the Supreme Court (202-479-3000). Here’s what you get with the 202 area code:
a-0-air-ye-000 (sounds a little like “Oyez, Oyez,” doesn’t it?),
And here’s what you get without the area code:
Now look again at that White House number. It’s a challenge, to be sure–the crowding of consonants on the “4,” “5,” and “6” keys is bothersome, as is the conjunction of “1” (which has no letters) and “4.” Still, Chatterbox–who is no John Henry when it comes to Web software; he always uses a machine when writing anagram items–had little difficulty coming up with
c0b!’hlo, 1-g-1-g (meaning: The president is Ty Cobb),
b0b! Iko-1-h-1-h (meaning: The president is Dwight D. Eisenhower’s illegitimate son, Bob), and
b0a! 1-g-1-g (meaning: The president is a snake).
Chatterbox isn’t suggesting that the White House actually pressured PhoneSpell’s inventor, Internet consultant Jeremy Grodberg, into laying off its prized digits. Rather, Chatterbox suspects Grodberg, fearing angry reprisal from the Clinton administration, censored himself. The alternative–that the Internet isn’t as smart as Chatterbox–is too terrible to consider.