A long time ago someone emailed me the mind-reading trick that’s described on http://www.ehow.com/how_2251061_play-orange-kangaroo-mindreading-trick.html. As this was when the Internet was first ramping up somewhat, a few of my less-erudite friend were easily impressed, and agreed with the idea that the trick was “freaky.”

Seeing that the trick is packe with loaded questions, I felt it begged to be disassembled. I know there are other posts on the web that do this, but here’s my take as I wrote it up to my friends.

Steps 1 and 2 ask you to think of a number between 1 and 10, multiply by 9, add the digits together, and subtract 5. (e.g. 3 => 3 * 9 = 27, 2 + 7 = 9 minues 5 = 4).

Such math guarantees that you’ll end up with the number four. Every multiple of nine (18, 27, 36, 45, 54, 63, 72, 81, and 90) contain digits that add up to nine, so subtract five and you get four.

Step 3 has you then map the number to the corresponding letter of the alphabet, where A = 1, B = 2, C = 3, D = 4. So you always end up with “D” as the letter.

Step 4 now has you think of a country that starts with that letter, that is, with “D.” Now when I first saw this, it just said “country” whereas newer revs say “European country.” Now there are only four countries in the world that start with “D” (in English): Denmark, Dominia, Dominican Republic, Djibouti.  You know what most people are going to pick, and if you add the European condition, it’s guaranteed. (Personally, though, I thought of Deutschland [German for Germany] along with Denmark, but figured that didn’t qualify as a legitimate answer since it wasn’t the English name.)

So English-speaking people generally end up with Denmark.

Step 4 continues to have you think of an animal whose name starts with the last letter of the country. Assuming that you have Denmark and thus a “K,” you have a limited number of choices here. A quick look through the encylopedia yields:

kangaroo rat
keeshond (a breed of dog)
kelpie (a breed of Australian sheepdog)
Kermit the Frog
kestral (small falcons)
king snake (reptile)
kingbird (bird)
king fish (fish)
king fisher (bird)
kinglet (bird)
kipper (a male salmon or sea trout shortly after the spawning season)
kiwi (flightless bird of Australia)
kob (an orange-brown antelope of southeast Africa)
kookaburra (Australian laughing bird)
krait (a southeast Asian snake)

Seeing as how there are only a few on this list that anyone other than a Ph.D. in animal behavior would ever know about, and seeing as how the bulk of those don’t wholly qualify as “animals” (being birds or repiles), and seeing how that bulk of what yet remains is Australian, you’re pretty well guaranteed to get the kangaroo answer–unless you’re one of those types like me that has loved koalas since childhood and still has a stuffy in his office.

Now you’re supposed to think of a color or a fruit that starts with the last letter of the animal name. This is likely “O” and the only choice here is “orange.” There simply isn’t another fruit with an English name starting with “o,” unless you consider that an olive is technically a fruit. As for colors, you can probably get creative with all those names on the paint chips you see at hardware stores, but mostly you’ll get “orange” too.

Of course, if you thought of a koala you could end up with apple or apricot; if you thought of kob you’d naturally get banana, blackberry, or blueberry. But even if you thought of a kiwi, kangaroo rat, kelpie, or keshond, you’d end up being confused because you can’t think of any fruit that starts with I, D, E, or T, unless you remember that eggplant is technically a fruit itself. So thinking you missed something in the game you’d go back and think of another animal, naturally a kangaroo. [If you’re playing with colors, then A probably goes to aqua, B to black or Blue, and letters like I, D, E, and T certainly require some creative through (ivory and tan are at least reasonably obvious).]

In fact, you’d probably think the same even if you started with Djibouti because there aren’t many animals starting with an I. Maybe ibex, ibis (but that’s a bird), and iguana (a reptile). The latter two could lead to strawberry and apple/apricot, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a fruit starting with “x”! If you started with Dominica you could go with ape or antelope, but what fruit? Aardvark could lead to kiwi fruit, but that’s about it. Dominican Republic would lad you with cat (no choice of fruit), cow (watermelon), cheetah (but no fruit), chimpanzee (no fruit), or chimp (pear). Again, not too many options.

Personally I think the Dominica/Aardvark/Kiwi Fruit, Djibouti/Ibis/Strawberry, and Deutschland/Dog/Grape answers would be good to pull on someone if I ever get asked this again.