What Three Words

Our motorhome is quite small really – it’s a Burstner IT 586 – and it has just enough room for the two  of us plus the dog.  But it’s fitted out with a pretty good array of things to make life easier and one of these is the GPS.  Now it starts getting technical, because you can use a normal street address to find a destination, or a postcode, or latitude and longitude, or simply just stab the screen with your finger and point out a place on the map for the system to go to.  This is great.  Where it starts to get a bit less great is when you want to describe to someone else (who isn’t a GPS gadget) just exactly where you are or where you want to go.

While trying to find an elegant solution to this conundrum I happened to hit upon the What3Words website.  The W3W people have found an often hugely amusing way of describing positions on the face of the planet using only three words.  They divided the entire Earth’s surface into a network of 3m squares, which works out apparently to be a total of around 57 trillion little squares.  Each square is then given a name made up of three words, like this;    words.like.this     and each square’s name is unique.  I’ve no idea how they managed to do this, but apparently alogrithms were involved.  This is useful since it means you don’t have to be connected to the internet before you can use the app on your smartphone.  You don’t even need a phone signal.

What this means is, instead of having to remember a meaningless screed of numbers, or an address, or even a description like ‘Just outside the big furniture shop, on the corner of High Street and Main Street, but by the left hand entrance door near a post box…’  all you need to do is remember three words; words.like.this   and as long as you’ve got the app on your phone you’ll have no problems.

Sometimes you can hit on an absolute gem.  It won’t surprise many of you to learn that my old mucker Mark Foden and I have spent several happy hours dreaming up amusing combinations of words and trying them out on the app.  To quote from our most recent series of informational exchanges, it’s nice to know that theres a really.groovy.kipper in the middle of Australia, while a small patch of sea off the Orkneys is titled funky.acid.monkey ; it’s possible to shout.army.words in Houston, Texas while a few miles up the road in Hook you can find neatly.buttered.toast     You could have a quiet.evening.away in the jungles of Laos, or go for a roaring.gorging.evening in Woodward, Oklhahoma; there is a hugely.amusing.square in the far north of Canada and a rather.dull.square near Ralston, Nebraska (at this point we contemplated getting in touch with the people at W3W to ask them to swap the names around).  The possibilities are almost limitless, but to forestall any inspired searching we did discover that the app has a sweary filter in it and you can’t use that sort of vocabulary to describe places.  Probably just as well.

To close this entry off, if you’re interested, the W3W location corresponding to the address ‘words.like.this’ is a pleasant little spot in Australia about half way between South Morang and Yarrambat, both in the state of Victoria and on the north-eastern edge of the Melbourne suburbs.


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