Le radoteur

One of the most curious episodes of my life: I was 18 or 20 when during a holiday I found in a Parisian bouquiniste an used copy of Théorie du bordel ambiant by Roland Moreno; I read it and was so enthused (it’s a riot, believe me — it would cheer anyone up) that I wrote him a fan mail. He did answer, and a long correspondence ensued for several years, til it was sadly cut short by his untimely demise.

Roland Moreno was an inventor, credited in the francophone world as the main creator behind the smart card. His role in this is not without controversy (a good friend of mine who was in the same industry says “he made a prototype the size of a washing machine”) but there is no doubt that his contribution, and the rewards he reaped, were huge. However, his vivacious and keen intellect wasn’t guided by notions of importance or monetisation: he loved making things, even apparently pointless things like the Matapof, featured in Sautet’s Les choses de la vie. Among his many inventions, surely le radoteur is among the minimal and minor, but heck, it’s fun. It’s an algorithm to invent new words, starting from a series of “model words”, and he used it in the 60s to create new medicines names for a pharmaceutical company. The algorithm is described in detail in the Théorie. It’s very simple but I can attest it works still pretty well, the more if informed by a vast and consistent vocabulary.

I have written a Typescript version of it, mostly because I wanted to use it myself and other versions I found around were impractical or buggy. It’s minimalist but effective, it was fun to make and a lovely memory of an exhilarating episode of my early youth.

https://gist.github.com/barbaracassani/17787e244a5408e2e2cc16615ef10d1f