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55 Ways to Have Fun With Google. Go to Table of Contents. Visit Gifcom.

50. The Realplayer Fish, or: Telling a Story in Synonyms

Google has a nice synonyms feature built right into the main search engine. Using the “~” (tilde) operator preceding a word, you can search not only for the word itself but similar words as well. These aren’t always synonyms (in the sense that they are different words with the same meaning); they are often simply related words with a different meaning.

To find out all the synonyms Google stores for a word, you can enter the word using the synonyms operator, but then exclude the word afterwards using the minus operator. Like here for the word “home”:

~home -home

Since Google now can’t show you results with “home,” it must show you synonyms of home only. Those will be rendered in bold. If you want to find all the synonyms for a given term, you can continue excluding the synonyms you find until you hit an end and no more results are returned, like this:

~home -home -official -house -interior -homer -real-estate

That’s already interesting, but you can also abuse Google synonyms. How? Just replace every word in a given story with Google’s first synonym for that word! Of course, that’s a boring task to do manually so I automated it. You can use the Synonym Storyteller tool ( to copy and paste your story. Hit submit, and it will be rendered in its synonyms for often surprising (and often, just nonsense) results.

As an example, here is the beginning of a fairy tale by the Brother’s Grimm. It’s called The Fisherman and His Wife and I will present a part of it first in its original wording, and afterwards, in a version which has been changed by the Synonym Storyteller (for the full tale, see


The Fisherman and His Wife: The Original

There was once a fisherman who lived with his wife in a pigsty, close by the seaside. The fisherman used to go out all day long a-fishing; and one day, as he sat on the shore with his rod, looking at the sparkling waves and watching his line, all on a sudden his float was dragged away