Without the letter E


I’m not sure what is really so hard about the challenge. But the idea that it is a difficult challenge is right there in the simple offering… “bet you can’t”… which are the last words.

Maybe it’s the pressure idea.

In a classic episode of The Odd Couple, Oscar Madison is bet that he can’t type his name correctly in ten seconds by Bobby Riggs. He types “Oscar Madisoy” and loses the bet.

I’ve actually broken out that trick a few times over the years, and for some reason it always works. Either the person freezes and takes too much time, or the person rushes and makes a mistake.

The reality is, ten seconds is an awfully long time. I can type my name four times or more in ten seconds. But, as I’ve often said, perception is more powerful than reality… to the point that often, perception becomes the reality.

And so the challenge is issued, and without thinking about how to do it, the pressure builds around what must be a trick. And suddenly, the mind is either filled with chaos or the clock disappears. Basically… you either rise to the occasion or slip below your normal effort, and usually there is no mediocre in between.

The first time I saw the “bet you can’t” challenge on the internet, this was the offering:

Name a state without the letter “e” in its name.

Let’s break away from the challenge for a second to consider where I grew up. In the northeast, every state has an “e” involved in the spelling. Rhode Island… Connecticut… Massachusetts… Maine… New Hampshire… Vermont. That’s New England. (You even get an “e” in New England.) I went to college in New York. Closest states are places like Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware.

The point being… my initial grasp at states, and the familiarity I would have with them, would draw me to states that have an “e’ in the name.

Until you get to something like Ohio. Oh wait… yeah… Ohio. That was easy. Utah’s a snap too as you begin to think about it. Maybe this isn’t too bad.

And that’s it… the challenge indicates that there will be a… well… a challenge in figuring it out.

But there’s not.

Alphabetically, the first six states have no “e” when spelled out. Those would be Alabama… Alaska… Arizona… Arkansas… California… Colorado.

Here’s a good one… which would you rather type… a list of the states that have an “e” or the states that don’t?

Would you believe that 30… THIRTY… of the 50 states do not have an “e” in their name? (Just so happens I live in the middle of 10 of them that do.)

So let’s see if I have this correct… 60% of the states in the United States do not have an “e” in the spelling of their name, and yet “bet you can’t” is offered up.


Yet the “challenge” continues. And it even takes on new forms.

Name a color that doesn’t have an “e” in the name? (Bet you can’t.)

Well… by now you should know you can. Gold… pink… brown… maroon… and of course the list goes on.

I’ve seen some places where they discuss the advertising potential involved in such challenges. (Do these things generate likes and comments and shares? And when they do, what are the totals and the best sources involved?)

I’ve seen places where people offer the challenge in foreign languages. (“Name a color without an ‘e’ using the word and spelling in Spanish” and so on.)

I’ve seen people issuing challenges about movies, vegetables, condiments, breakfast cereals, and a girl’s name.

Many aspects of it, for some, can be pretty interesting. After all… what people have the most power on Facebook, Twitter, or other platforms for gaining participation or spreading messages? And if you were asked to come up with a color or a girl’s name -- using a foreign language and no letter “e” -- would you be able to?

Maybe… maybe… just perhaps… it only proves we have too much time on our hands.

Still… can you type your name correctly in ten seconds?

(Bet you can’t.)

If you have any comments or questions, please e-mail me at Bob@inmybackpack.com