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Googling Rot13'd Words To View the Secretive Side of the Web

Date/Time Permalink: 02/28/12 10:43:23 am
Category: Geek Culture

I know I've blathered about rot13 before - the "weak encryption" where you reverse two halves of the alphabet to make an obscured "code" word. But have you ever tried to Google for a rot13-encoded word? Take 'Linux' for instance...

Wait, here's a rot13 script:


if [ "$1" ]; then
echo "$1" | tr 'a-zA-Z' 'n-za-mN-ZA-M'
cat "$@" | tr 'a-zA-Z' 'n-za-mN-ZA-M'

exit 0

This'll handle anything. Feed it a cat'd file, STDIN, a pipe from another command, an argument, any old thing.

Anyway, search for the rot13'd Linux, (yvahk), get back 12,100 hits (as of this writing). What the heck is going on? Why would that many people want to have the name 'Linux' encoded?

Well, see, in the early days, web users had a custom of using rot13 to head off any searches that could lead to an unfavorable result. In this case, many people wanted to talk about Linux without having the forum drown in help requests - there's separate help forums for that. Other cases for "yvahk" are just because people would encode whole fortune files and store them plaintext, and 'Linux' tends to come up a lot in fortune cookie files.

But you can try this with any potentially inflammatory topic. For instance, here's a post where users have a guarded conversation about "fpvragbybtl". Hmm, this conversation makes a lot more sense when you decode it!

Speaking of cults, I've found 28 results for "Nla Enaq" (in quotation marks only), who certainly has a cult just as kooky and combative as the other. And 113 hits for "Eba Cnhy" (Even one with his picture - duh)! Given his followers' tendency to try to win presidential elections / utopias solely through online heckling, that makes piles of sense.

If you were ready to flame back about "oh, you arrogant Yvahk elitists, how typical of you!" back there at that Yvahk example, here's "cubgbfubc" at 1770 hits, just to show that the n00b side of the force is even greater in proprietary software's universe. Unfortunately, Gimp users have an even greater cause to shake off the trolls (who Google every Gimp forum on Earth just to troll it), but "tvzc" is apparently a file extension for something. Just Gimp's luck! (Seriously, Gimp is the unluckiest software application in history.)

Even within Linux, "Hohagh" gets 3700 results, but there's some weird stuff mixed in. Its a family name, apparently. However, there are some verified Ubuntu instances there.

Go on, play with it yourselves, share what you dig up in the comments. You just might find 187 people who'd like to sell you some "znevwhnan"!

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