Jeff Noon's system for changing language into new patterns, with new meanings and ideas. Using what Noon calls "Filter Gates," the text can be manipulated radically from what was originally written. In the book Cobralingus, Noon has a one page summary of how the engine works, and a list of the Filter Gates he has used so far. These are both available on the internet at; the meat of the book is what Noon has done with the engine, not the engine itself. I've copied his list of filters below, since they're freely available on the web (and he encourages their distribution) this shouldn't be a problem.

He wrote the system with a specific analogy to electronic music production in mind: take a given sample or mixed tune, pass it through gates and filters and synthesizers. Add sounds, remove sounds, make a few subtle changes and a few drastic ones. Don't just concentrate on making the samples into an end product, but to have the revisions and mutations of those samples be part of the work, too. And of course, a "finished" work can be remixed by another person who has the same tools...

The Cobralingus Engine has this same effect, but on words instead of samples. That is, a given piece of text, be it sentence, paragraph, poem, or story, can be fed through the various Filter Gates to add words, remove words, make new words, scatter words, break words up into their constituent parts, make words assume a two-dimensional shape, etc, etc, etc. What makes it so magical is that the user has control over what happens each time, getting to use his or her own powers of pattern finding and creativity within the bounds of the engine to make text that is both new and completely their own.

One might argue "Why not just write what you want to write without bothering with this "engine" business?" Well, that might be a good answer for someone who is creative all the time, and always knows exactly what their creation should and will be. For the other 97% of us, though, constraints make creativity come easier, and make getting past a block in creative flow faster. Also, use of the engine lets the reader see all of the steps between inspiration and final work, which themselves can be beautiful and enlightening. In Noon's own words, "... it is hoped that each interim text will be of individual interest; however, the real pleasure of Cobralingus comes from enjoying the pieces as a whole. From inlet to outlet, the journey is the goal."

A short example will follow this list of the Filter Gates:

Denotes that the Cobralingus device has been activated.
The start-up text. The initial signal on which the device will act.
Brings the text down to earth. Forces language to behave itself.
Gently breaks down the text. Dissipates. Introduces corruption to the signal.
Injects artificial stimulant into the language. Type of drug will always be specified. This one is kind of confusing to read, but simple to use. In the book, Noon injects things like metaphorazine and repititorphan. These cause effects like making some of the sentences metaphors or some of the words repeat, etc.
Creates elements of beauty.
Breaks up signal into highly disordered fragments. To be used with caution.
Forces text into the nearest possible narrative, however nonsensical.
Kills the text. Calls up a ghost to haunt the language. Even after reading the book cover-to-cover I don't quite understand this one :-)
Temporarily halts the Cobralingus process.
Significantly enhances text. Increases readability.
Combines all elements into a single entity.
Drastically increases image density of text. To be used with caution.
Mischief maker. Encourages craziness. Results may surprise the user.
Loses deadwood. Selects images or phrases from the text.
Disorders text. Parts of text may be lost or changed.
Attacks text, changing words of choice into others of a similar sound. Recommended for advanced users.
Introduces new element to signal. Source of sample to be specified.
Uses machine function to introduce new elements to text. Elements always specified. For example, SEARCH & REPLACE: day with night.
The final result of the filtering process.
Denotes that the Cobralingus device has been deactivated.

Here's a basic (if unabashedly lousy) example, using the input text "The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog."

INLET: The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog.
ENHANCE: With lightening speed, the tawny fox leapt past the staid beagle.
DECAY: With lightening sp awn fox l ast eagle.
CONTROL: With a bolt of lightning, Fox spawned one last eagle.
FIND STORY: None of his previous encounters in the keep had prepared Fox for the maelstrom taking place here in the field. His familiars -- his cats, his birds, his few reptiles -- could find no chink in the gatekeeper's armor. The ones that weren't driven to earth by hailstones from the sky, were stricken down by the gatekeeper itself. It was only through the power afforded him by the storm that Fox kept himself from being crushed as well. As it was, he had only enough control left for one more summoning, he prayed it would be a good one. With a bolt of lightning, Fox spawned one last eagle ...