Yesterday, The Internet Solved a 20-year-old Mystery

Tuesday, January 21, 2014 - 11:00 AM

Back in October, we told a story on the TLDR podcast about Daniel Drucker. Drucker was looking through his recently deceased dad's computer when he found a document that contained only joke punchlines. He turned to the website Ask Metafilter for help. Within hours, the website's users had reunited the punchlines with their long lost setups.

It looks like they've done it again.

Yesterday afternoon, a user posted a thread asking for help with a decades old family mystery:

My grandmother passed away in 1996 of a fast-spreading cancer. She was non-communicative her last two weeks, but in that time, she left at least 20 index cards with scribbled letters on them. My cousins and I were between 8-10 years old at the time, and believed she was leaving us a code. We puzzled over them for a few months trying substitution ciphers, and didn't get anywhere.

The index cards appear to just be a random series of letters, and had confounded the poster's family for years. But it only took Metafilter 15 minutes to at least partially decipher. User harperpitt quickly realized she was using the first letters of words, and that she was, in fact, writing prayers:

Was she a religious woman? The last As, as well as the AAA combo, make me think of "Amen, amen, amen." So extrapolating -- TYAGF = "Thank you Almighty God for..."

It would make sense to end with "Thank you, Almighty God, for everything, Amen - Thank you, Almighty God, for everything, Amen, Amen, Amen."

AGH, YES! Sorry for the double post, but:


Our Father who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name... etc etc etc

The whole thread is fascinating. You should take a look at it. You might even be able to contribute. And if you haven't heard our interview with Daniel Drucker, you can listen to it below.


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Comments [11]

Chuck Werner

Given the prayaer format, "PAGA" is likely "Praise Almighty God, Amen". Working back fromthose as they repeat.

Jan. 24 2014 09:15 AM
KenL from Bloomington IN

An argument for reading the classics here. Anyone who remembers their Anna Karenina will recall that this is how Levin proposes to Kitty. (the second time)

Jan. 22 2014 09:54 PM
JB from Albuquerque,NM

In reference to the scrambled note left by the womans grandmother I do believe this to be a Catholic prayer and Last rights of passage. "#1 on the back. Our Father Who Art In Heaven Hallow Be Thy Name Thy Kingdom Come Thy Will Be Done....." Im sure someone can figure the rest. Thanks ..Hopw that helps..JB

Jan. 22 2014 01:21 PM
Ilene Ito from New York City/Greenwich Village, N.Y.

Great site
I WILL be back!

Jan. 22 2014 11:26 AM

I was raised as a Lutheran and we recited the Apostle's Creed every Sunday. Since this woman's mother was at least nominally Lutheran, one of the cards the family owns might contain the first letters of the apostles creed. I've added periods for ease of following.


We also recited the Nicene creed which is a bit longer. I haven't taken the first letters but it's easy enough for those interested.
Fascinating story.

Jan. 22 2014 11:08 AM
Carl from Memphis

At the very beginning, PDGNH = Please Dear GOD In Heaven

Jan. 22 2014 10:43 AM
Denise from Florida

The back of the card seems to be the Our Father prayer

Jan. 22 2014 08:55 AM

She didn't have much time left and didn't know when she would go so she was saving time by short-hand writing prayers.

Jan. 22 2014 12:11 AM

The last part is for thine is the kingom the power and the glory for ever and ever amen

Jan. 21 2014 11:39 PM
walter nelson

the back of the card it the lord's prayer twice.

Jan. 21 2014 06:02 PM
Jessamyn from Vermont

So neat, those nerds.

Jan. 21 2014 12:24 PM

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TLDR is a short podcast and blog about the internet by Meredith Haggerty. You can subscribe to the TLDR podcast here. You can follow our blog here. I tweet @manymanywords and @tldr.

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