Word salad

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For the album by Fischer-Z, see Word Salad (album).

Word salad is a "confused or unintelligible mixture of seemingly random words and phrases",[1] most often used to describe a symptom of a neurological or mental disorder. The words may or may not be grammatically correct, but semantically confused to the point that the listener cannot extract any meaning from them. The term is often used in psychiatry, as well as in theoretical linguistics to describe a type of grammatical acceptability judgment by native speakers, and in computer programming to describe textual randomization. It has thus become used as a way of criticizing very incoherent or irrational statements by rival political leaders.

In mental health diagnoses[edit]

Word salad may describe a symptom of neurological or psychological conditions in which a person attempts to communicate an idea, but words and phrases that may appear to be random and unrelated come out in an incoherent sequence instead. Often, the person is unaware that he or she did not make sense. It appears in people with dementia and schizophrenia,[2] as well as after anoxic brain injury.

It may be present as:

  • Receptive aphasia[3]
  • Schizophasia, a mental condition characterized by incoherent babbling (compulsive or intentional, but nonsensical)
  • Logorrhea, a mental condition characterized by excessive talking (incoherent and compulsive)
  • Clanging, a speech pattern that follows rhyming and other sound associations rather than meaning
  • Graphorrhea, a written version of word salad that is more rarely seen than logorrhea in schizophrenics.[4]

In computing[edit]

Word salad can be generated by a computer program for entertainment purposes (for example, a game similar to Mad Libs).

Mojibake, also called Buchstabensalat ("letter salad") in German, is an effect similar to word salad, in which an assortment of seemingly-random text is generated through character encoding incompatibility.

Nonsensical phrasing can also be generated for more malicious reasons, such as the Bayesian poisoning used to counter Bayesian spam filters by using a string of words which have a high probability of being collocated in English, but with no concern for whether the sentence makes sense grammatically or logically. Bayesian poisoning may also use intelligible sentences, which are not word salad, such as text taken from an old novel, which have no connection to the main subject of the spam.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Definition of "word salad". Oxford University Press. 2012. 
  2. ^ Shives, Louise Rebraca (2008). Basic concepts of psychiatric-mental health nursing. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer / Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. p. 112. ISBN 0-7817-9707-1. 
  3. ^ "Merck Manual". merckmanuals.com. Merck Publishing. Retrieved 12/6/14.  Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  4. ^ Geschwind, Norman (1974). Selected papers on language and the brain (2. print. ed.). Dordrecht ; Boston: Reidel. p. 80. ISBN 9789027702623. 
  5. ^ Berinato, Scott (April 2007). "The Scourge of Image Spam: Image Spam Techniques" 6 (4). CXO Media Inc. ISSN 1540-904X.