Wordplay at work

My work colleague Tyler posted this comment on (our internal) Google Buzz the other day:

A sign in [the cafe] proclaimed a table to be “REVERVED.” Seriously?

Another colleague, Aaron, wrote:

Reserved for someone revered? Or just verved multiple times?

I wrote:

It’s almost like reserved, reversed!

Tyler responded:

Perhaps. It was reserved, but now it’s not, so the situation, one might say, has been reverved.

Then I contributed this:

A verse:

A sign on a table, “Reverve”
Was written by someone with nerve
Was the writer just spelling-averse?
Or did they intend we’d converse
On the subjects “reverse” and “revere”
While away from our jobs we would veer?
Well, no more! I do hereby aver
I’m done with “reverve” fore-ver

and finally, Helen sent this link:


Noah? Ah, no

For a few months after we had a son and named him Jonah, my dad occasionally called him Noah by mistake. Surprisingly, he wasn’t the only one. A few other people have made that mistake over the years. His great grandmother still does it from time to time.

In 2008 I had a job interview with a software engineer named Jonah. I mentioned that it was also the name of my son. He said, “For some reason, no one can remember the name Jonah. They always call me Noah.”

Today I learned of the existence of Noah and the Whale, a London pop-music band. (Their song, “5 Years Time,” came up on my Pandora station, and it’s a good one.) Their name is a play on the story of Jonah and the whale.

It’s true that Jonah and Noah are both biblical boy’s names, and that one is an anagram of 80% of the other’s letters. But why are they easier to confuse than, say, Caleb and Abel?