This app/website caught my attention as part of a news story about a woman in England whose husband was in medical distress and she tried to summon help by calling “911” (999 in England, I believe). When the inevitable question “where are you” came up, she had no idea. She was on a beach and the 999 operator wasn’t familiar with the hotel reference the woman provided. Fortunately, both people were familiar with “what3words.”
(Photo credit: IMDb.com and FathomEvents.com) I borrowed the map from “Come From Away,” about the passenger jets which were forced to land in Gander, Newfoundland, Canada during the September 11 attacks.
What3words software has plotted 3-meter (about 10 foot) squares over the entire surface of the planet and assigned 3 random words to each square. Think about that…. 57 trillion squares covering anywhere on Earth you could possibly be. The words, 40,000 of them, were assigned randomly but stay with a location forever.
For example, if you bring up the what3words website on your computer and enter: rich.soup.noble it will take you to the Oval Office in the White House (the left side of the resolute desk. pill.hung.during is the right side, as seated at the desk). So if I am out walking in my neighborhood back in Durham and collapse on the path near a lake across the road from where I live, I could say: lengthen mistreat yardstick, and Durham 911 could enter that and bring up a map showing where I am (and a new feature is a satellite image of that location, in some places, not more remote areas).
This method is a little less tedious than GPS coordinates, which a person under duress may not be able to quickly or accurately establish, but with the app on your phone you just open it up and it will tell you the three words where you happen to be at the moment. Accuracy is important, though, and that leads to an apparent weakness in using the “words” method. Spelling matters. Plurals matter. Changing one word to a plural may send first responders to Ogallala, Nebraska or the middle of the Pacific Ocean rather than Durham, North Carolina. And there is the problem of distinguishing band/banned, bear/bare, beat/beet, etc. – but if used properly it can get help to your approximate location (say, a on beach or in the mountains).
Here are some of the more unusual words I have seen used to try and thwart word confusion: floodplain, meerkat, sunblock, tofu, thermostats, crikey, bifocal, astronomers, backpackers, hogwash, hamburger, intestine, snippets, gazebo, coconuts, chandelier, helicopter, zealous, matchmaker, pistachio, roulette, gargle, thanksgiving, underrated, instrumental, riverbeds, considerably.
It’s also something you can have a little fun with on a rainy day. Klaatu Barada Nikto takes you to eastern India, near Bangladesh (and it changes the first two words to other words/spellings- the same way bacon.lettuce.tomato becomes beacon.lettuce.tomato). Pathetic Loser President takes you to a remote location in Russia (and let’s just say I learned about this before the most recent election). Certified Public Accountant takes you to Planada, California (between that town and Yosemite National Park). International Space Station to western Australia. I was looking up words for a friend of mine and their neighbor’s house was at peaches.waffle.grits.
I like doing crossword puzzles and difficult.crossword.puzzle and easy.crossword.puzzle both took me to different places in Alaska. The Dildo Brewing Company in Dildo, Newfoundland, Canada had some funny combinations in it’s vicinity (as if Dildo Brewing Company isn’t a funny combination of words on it’s own…): psychiatry.upbeat.cafeteria, devoid.giggles.machining, and dozen.sludge.honeybees. Ah, the unintended consequence of random, computer generated words!
Try it sometime and have some fun. green.eggs.ham, peanut.butter.jelly, sliced.cherry.cheesecake. But in an emergency, choose (or say) your words carefully. It could save your life!