Kopacs at NY Marathon finish line
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Lynne in NYC

Kopac's Corner

All Your Running Base Are Belong to Us

by Bob “Kabob Cop” KopacZero Wing European Box Art courtesy of Wikipedia

Runners who are gamers may recognize (most of) the above title. According to the Internet encyclopedia Wikipedia, Zero Wing was a 1989 arcade game by Toaplan that was transformed into a video game for European gamers. Many of the translations for the video game were in fractured English. For example, the opening “cut scene” included the sentence, “All your base are belong to us,” otherwise known as “AYBABTU.” Through the power of the Web, AYBABTU became an Internet phenomenon among gamers. 

I thought of AYBABTU when I contemplated the massive amounts of spam I was receiving. I had placed my e-mail address as an active link on “Kopac’s Korner” on the Mid-Hudson Runners Club running web site. My friend Kevin, who works at Yahoo, said that nefarious data-mining engines search for active links and then target that link with spam messages. Something wicked this way comes.

What really caught my interest, though, were the subject lines of the spam messages. Here are actual spam subject lines that were sent to my e-mail address: “As maestro by communicate”, “My as debacle”, “Sentry at revision”, “With it reticulum”, “On revere be manumitted”, “An etiolog is vought”, “I in managerial”, “For be challenge”, “By go irresistible”, “You cynic in canoe”, “No a catapult”, “Is no harmless”, “His structural”, and “At maladroit be expose.”

At first glance, the titles appear to be a random arrangement of words. I thought perhaps it was due to people becoming more and more illiterate. After all, have you lately read e-mail chains or blogs, where anyone can pontificate ungrammatically on any subject, but thinking he or she is “As maestro by communicate.” Their “writings” reminded me of that old joke: “Is it true that if you put a thousand typewriters in a room with a thousand monkeys, eventually one of them will type a work of Shakespeare? No, that was disproved by the Internet.”

My second thought was that these spam messages were coming from foreigners, perhaps using Monty Python’s Hungarian Phrasebook. I had covered strange translations in my article Den Falske Maratonløber Once Bit My Sister, so perhaps here was more evidence of weird interpretations.

If the titles are strange, what lurks inside the body of the messages? I cannot answer that question, for I have been hesitant to click on these messages. Since “An etiolog is vought” alludes to “etiology” -- the study of the causes of disease -- does that mean the body contains a computer virus? When someone says “Is no harmless”, does that double negative imply the e-mail really is harmful, so is the sender daring me to open the e-mail? “Do you feel lucky? Well, do you, punk?”

“I in managerial” definitely sounds like a threat to me, or at least something someone should not mention in polite company. And wouldn’t you be wary about clicking on “With it reticulum”? By reticulum, does the sender mean the constellation or the second stomach of a ruminant animal?

As I ruminated, it occurred to me that what most bothered me was that none of these e-mails seemed to be running based! “You cynic in canoe” may be sports related, but it has nothing to do with running. I suppose “For be challenge” and “By go irresistible” could be construed as running topics. “At maladroit be expose” might explain an awkward runner at the “As Dare as You Bare” race series.

“On revere be manumitted” might have something to do with the Boston Marathon. (“The runners are coming, the runners are coming!”) “His structural” could explain my running injuries. “My as debacle” could describe my running career. “No a catapult” could be an explanation as to why I never won a race. “Sentry at revision” would explain my spouse Lynne’s role as my editor

I decided that if I ever wanted to send spam to capture the attention of unwary runners, I would use anagrams of famous runners or coaches, such as: “Bolder girls”, “A nether skirt wiz”, “A anaconda ill tilt pot”, “Marry oil quit”, “No dang dork”, “Limb ill sly”, “Venerate foe pints”, “Dry ringer glen”, and “Atomize kelp”. Or, I could just use “All your running base are belong to us.”


[Anagrams: Bill Rodgers, Kathrine Switzer, Patti Catalano Dillon, Marty Liquori, Don Kardong, Billy Mills, Steve Prefontaine, Gerry Lindgren, and Emil Zatopek.]