What Is Reverse Speech?

By Norman J. “Jerry” Hirsch


Reverse Speech is the discovery, theory, and technology of David John Oates involving oral communication. The concept of Reverse Speech is actually simple. That theory is that when we verbally communicate normally forwards, our minds are in fact simultaneously communicating in reverse. The theory is that as we speak, our minds do not only pick and choose forward verbal context, our minds are also constantly creating our verbal mannerisms, pauses, syntax, and hesitations. It is the combination of all these things that create this reverse communication.

Unlike forward speech, we have no conscious control of the content of our reverse speech. Thus it is theorized that Reverse Speech is complimentary to forward speech and provides a true insight, or window, to our inner feelings, beliefs, and possibly our soul. Because of this insight, Reverse Speech is frequently called “the one true lie detector”.

Why Reverse Speech exists, is still under some consideration. It has been stated that it is simply a part of nature possibly present to be used more extensively as man further develops. It has also been theorized that Reverse Speech may be a natural “safety valve” for man. Given the complex society of today, and mans tendency to interact with others in less than a forthright manner, it is speculated that the mind has to have an outlet for true feelings. It is theorized that Reverse Speech might be natures own way to accomplish this “venting” process.

Whatever the reason for the existence of Reverse Speech, the fact is that it does exist. It may take years or decades before we will know the full potential of this newly developing science. It will probably even take longer to fully understand it.


In 1983 David Oates was a youth counselor in Australia. Among the teens he worked with, was a growing concern about “hidden” backwards satanic messages in some of the most popular music. Oates, deciding to dispel the myth, began to listen for these “messages” within the music. He found them. Reverse phrases purposely put within the music electronically by a technique called “Backmasking”. However Oates also found something else. He found other Reverse phrases. Phrases not created electronically and placed into the music. He found phrases in reverse that occurred naturally.

Inspired by the discovery of these “natural” reversals in music, Oates decided to expand his research to the spoken word in every form. He began to find more and more reversals. With practice, Oates began to realize that reversals occurred in forward speech as frequently as 10-15 seconds. Oates determined that reversals were “layered”. Some reversals made clear reference to the forward speech, confirming or contradicting what was said forwards. Other reversals seemed to be directive and self analyzing. However a significant number of the reversals seemed to be vague references to religion and mythology. These reversals were obviously metaphoric in nature. The problem Oates found was how to interpret these reversals. He began to catalog and categorize what he was finding. Using his religious background as a reference point, coupled with theorems of Metaphors and Archetypes by Jung, an early 20th century psychiatrist, Oates began to formulate the theory of Reverse Speech. He had truly discovered something and now needed to formulate what it all meant.

Oates created a procedure for transcribing reversals, and determining their validity factors. He categorized 3 levels of reversals, further dissecting the phenomenon until he reached a point where he was certain that he could accurately detect them. He created checkpoints to minimize problems of projection, (placing your personal biases into what you hear). Three of the most important checkpoints consisted of; 1. Syllable count. Reversals should contain the same number of syllables as the forward speech. 2. Vowel sounds. Each vowel sound should be precise and clear. 3. Beginnings and ending of the words clearly defined.

He was ready to move on. Move on he did. Oates explored all phases of forward speech, consistently finding reversals that were congruent. Often metaphoric, but also directly definitive. Oates knew this was more than simple coincidence.

Once ready, Oates wrote several books on reverse speech theory. After migrating to America, Oates began to teach his theories. First in Texas, and then in California. Today, 15 years later, Reverse Speech has become a phenomenon that can only go forward. Presently Reverse Speech is recognized as job classification within the US department of Labor. It is also a recognized educational course within the state of California. There are hundreds of students and a significant number of graduates utilizing Reverse Speech through out. The truths of man take many shapes. Reverse Speech has become one of the most recent, and may very well be one of the most important to arrive in the past 100 years.


Although the theory of Reverse Speech can be verbalized simply, the fact is, it is more complex than simply listening to messages backwards. Reverse Speech is a function of the mind. The brain is commonly considered to be divided into left and right hemispheres. The left Hemisphere of the brain is that part which we use to verbally communicate. The right hemisphere is the part of the brain that provides the tonality and complimentary to our communication. Because the right brain is also that part of the brain which lends itself to music, imagination, rhythm, and images, it is theorized that the formation of Reverse Speech comes from the right hemisphere of the brain. In other words forwards speech is performed by the left brain, and “modified” simultaneously by the right brain. Such interaction of both sides of the brain melds together to create the finished product we call forward speech AND Reverse Speech. A process which David Oates calls speech complimentary.

The reversals that the human mind creates, however are not simply one dimensional. They are in fact multi-layered, just as is the mind. The human mind is considered to have three levels. The conscious, the unconscious, and the collective unconscious. The Conscious is that part of our mind of which we are aware. Our conscious thoughts and actions. The personal unconscious is that part of our mind of which we are not aware. Knowledge that is there but we have suppressed, or forgotten over time. That information which we often acknowledge with phrases such as, “Oh yeah, I remember that”, when it is brought back into the conscious. The Collective unconscious was theorized by the psychiatrist Jung to be that part of the mind which is a worldwide storehouse of information that each of us has. It is knowledge we don’t know we have, and it is common within all people. It is the spiritual and mythological knowledge, that Jung theorized all were born with.

Reverse Speech, David Oates determined, came from all three levels of the mind. First level reversals came from the conscious mind, or even the semi conscious mind. These type of reversals were found to be direct, using normal language. These reversals refer to what a speaker was actually thinking. Not only do they reveal the true thoughts of a person, but they either confirm or contradict that which the speaker is saying.

Second level reversals are reversals which stem from the personal unconscious mind. These reversals are spoken in metaphors. These types reveal emotional responses and unconscious thoughts. If a person is uncomfortable in a given situation, for example, a reversal may reveal that in a metaphorical phrase such as “my wolf cowers”. This is not something the speaker is actually thinking, but is in fact feeling.

Third level reversals are the deepest level of reversals, and are from the collective unconscious. David Oates theorizes this to be from the soul of man. Such reversals reveal the deep truths such as personality, behavior, and the unconscious knowledge of the collective unconscious. These types of reversals, like second level reversals, are found metaphorically. Frequently these metaphors refer to mythology, and spiritual references such as Satan, devil, King, goddess, and numerous other metaphorical pictures.

Metaphorical pictures, or metaphors can also be divided into three different types. These types are Operational, Structural, and Personal. Operational metaphors are expressed as desires, or emotional responses. My previous example, “My wolf cowers” is an example of an operational metaphor. The metaphor explains the current feeling of the speaker. The speaker may have been intimidated, or afraid, or be completely uncomfortable in the setting in which he spoke the forward sentence.

Structural metaphors, on the other hand, come from the deepest third level area of the mind. They can explain traits such as personality, basic beliefs, and the basic structure of the person. These are the metaphors which we have no conscious knowledge of and often refer to mythology, or make spiritual references.

Personal metaphors are pictures created by words that we draw from our own actual experiences to describe thoughts we are having. Personal metaphors can come in all levels and may be a combination of our own conscious, or unconscious thoughts. They also may incorporate basic core information from the collective unconscious. These types of metaphors are generally determined based upon groups of reversals. For example, a personal inference coupled with a metaphorical reference to mythology might elevate a first level reversal to a 2nd or 3rd level reversal, based upon its content. The determination requires analysis based upon all the surrounding factors.


One of the most troubling aspects of Reverse Speech for all students, and especially new students, is projection. Projection is the tendency of a listener to inject their own personal experiences and biases into what they are hearing into the Reverse Speech. Because Reverse Speech is like a foreign language to our conscious mind, as we listen to reversals, the mind desperately tries to attach a meaning to the sounds being heard. If uncontrolled, a listener may project, or attach meaning to a partial word or phrase that “sounds like” something they can relate to.

Recognizing the problem of projection early on, David Oates created Seven (7) checkpoints and validity factors to minimize the problem. By rating each reversal based upon this criteria, Oates reduces the possibility of projection down to the lowest potential possible. Any reversal failing to meet the criteria is simply lowered in validity. If the validity level is too low, the reversal is thrown out, no matter how clear it may appear to be. The seven checkpoints are:

1. Syllable Count. A good reversal will have the same number of syllables both forwards and backwards.

2. Clear vowel sounds in each syllable. Vowels should be distinctive.

3. Beginnings and endings of words clear and complete.

4. Sufficient spacing between each word. Each word should be clearly defined.

5. Reverse Phrase should be distinct from the surrounding gibberish.

6. Look for a melodious tonal flow from beginning to end. (highest level of reversals)

7. Definite constant beat and tempo from beginning to end

Once these checkpoints are established, then the validity of the reversal can be determined from one to five. Five is the highest rating and is not easily met because all seven checkpoints must be correct. The ratings then decrease based upon how each reversal meets the criteria. Checkpoints one through four are the most crucial. If checkpoints 1-4 are met, but one checkpoint in 5-7 is not met, the reversal is rated at 4. If one checkpoint in 1-4 and 5-7 are not met, the reversal has a validity 3. A reversal with one checkpoint not met in 1-4 and two checkpoints not met in 5-7 is given a rating of a validity 2. A validity of 1 is given to any reversal which has problems with two checkpoints 1-4 and two checkpoints 5-7.

These standards are very rigid, but they must be due to the nature of projection. Many decent reversals are found which are only rated at validity 2 or 3. However the trained RS analyst has to take into consideration the validity of these reversals when conducting an analysis of a transcript to prevent misinterpretation, or misdirection of the true meanings of the reversals.


As previously stated, Reverse Speech is complimentary to forwards speech. At first glance, the term complimentary, as defined by Websters, may not appear to be the most accurate word to define this function. Supplementary might seem more appropriate since reversals provide additional information to, or supplement, the meaning of the forwards speech. But upon further study, complimentary is in fact a better word to describe this interaction. Complimentary is the better word because reversals not only supplement information, they compliment the overall relationship of reverse speech to forward speech.

How Reverse Speech compliments forward speech is broken down into eight distinct categories.

1) Congruent Reversals: These are reversals which serve to confirm that which is spoken forwards in regular speech

2) Expansive Reversals: These reversals provide additional information.

3) Contradictory Reversals: These reversals are found to directly contradict what is being spoken forwards indicating a disbelief or lie.

4) External Dialogue: Reversals which contain a communication to another. Possibly used to influence another to agree with what the speaker is saying.

5) Internal Dialogue: Reversals which contain internal self examination. These reversals appear to tell an individual what to do..Self instruction.

6) Trail and lead reversals: These are found in long dissertations. The reversal reflects that the person is either thinking more about what was just spoken, or what they are about to say. The information in the reversal may directly refer to a topic not immediately being spoken.

7) Comparative Reversals: These reversals are not topically complimentary with what is being spoken. These reversals will refer and compare another incident or emotional experience that the speaker is relating to while experiencing the current activity or emotions

8) Link Reversals: Reversals which are the result of 2 people speaking who momentarily agree on a like idea. One person will begin a reversal at the end of their sentence, and the other person will finish the reversal at the beginning of their sentence. A continuation of thought between the two people.

The structure of reversals varies. Normally reversals are relatively short. Three to four word phrases are normal in most people. Some reversals may be considerably longer, or shorter. The variations are all relative to extenuating circumstances such as the emotional situation or personality of the speaker. David Oates categorizes reversal structure as; Long sentence; Cause and effect; Mirror Image; Sentence Building; Semi formed; and Double Emphasis.

Long sentence reversals are not as common as others. They provide much more insight and are given special attention by trained analysts. Cause and effect reversals are actually two statements. The first being a fact with the second providing an explanation as to the cause of the fact. Mirror Image reversals are reversals that utilize the same words at either end of a reversal. Sentence Building reversals are such that a sentence begun forwards will be completed in reverse. Semi-formed reversals have a trail off at the end and the final word will trail into gibberish. Double Emphasis reversals repeat a reversed phrase several times for importance to the speaker.

Also within reversal structure is the single word reversal. Single word reversals are more tricky to document as they may also be projection, or coincidence, or part of another reversal that was missed. To be certain of a single word reversal, it should be very clear with a high validity factor. Normally such reversals are emotionally strong.


In the one and a half years of my interaction with Reverse Speech, I have had several experiences. Scripted speech and Music immediately drew my attention. I became instantly curious if the reversals found in such forwards speech was actually the thoughts of the writer or the speaker/singer. To date, I have concluded that it would appear these reversals can be from either or both sources, with a number of mitigating factors. I continue to examine various reversals for further information.

One of the best examples of the co-mingling of thoughts from the author and singer was in the song, “You Never done it Like that”, by the Captain and Tennille. This song forward has numerous, albeit tame, sexual references and innuendoes. In reverse the sexual references virtually explode. Background Chorus’s lyrics, as well as the main lead lyrics are replete with first level sexual reversals. In this song Tennille makes numerous direct first level reverse references to wanting sexual intercourse. Tennilles reversals in this song range from outright requests for sex, need for sex, and blatant deeper level reversal metaphors about sex. (It needs to be fished). Meanwhile the background Chorus sings about having another baby.

My conclusions on this song are far from over. Based upon the musical arrangement, my preliminary opinion is that the author was preoccupied over a baby, possibly lost. I suspect this only because both the chorus’s reversals and some of Tennilles reversals refer to a baby. That reference is often in past tense. The Solo lyrics Tennille sings, when reversed, I believe interact with the original writing. Desiring sex to “have another baby” is a logical possibility. Tennille’s reversals, however, suggest strongly a sexual need or urge, rather than just a specific purpose to procreate.

From my layman’s status I believe that Tennille, while singing the song, possibly became stimulated subconsciously. She may have been motivated to want to have a baby based upon the effects of the song, but I believe she was definitely motivated to have sex. This would account for the strength of her sexual reversals. Whatever the implications, it is an interesting song to study and one I consistently return and listen to.

My interest in scripted reversals also took me to my personal favorite, John Wayne. Wayne had a number of “catch phrases” in his career which have remained popular in the public consciousness almost 20 years after his death. I was curious to learn if these phrases were the production of the writers, or of the man himself.

Utilizing some of Waynes most famous phrases he was known for, initially I had fairly negative results. Waynes reversals basically made no sense as they related to the complimentary of the forward dialog. Often very clear, they simply did not appear to relate to anything involving the forwards speech or action.

Eventually, one reversal was found that seemed to provide some insight for me. That one reversal was, “and I’m drunk”. This reversal, I believe, explains much as to the nonsequitur nature of Waynes reversals. Wayne was a notorious drinker. The string of reversals that were found with this “drunk” reversal absolutely made no sense, but they were nearly non-stop. In keeping with David Oates theory of right brain hemisphere origin of reversals, I suspect that the Alcohol stimulated that side of Wayne’s brain. In fact I concluded that the stimulation was to such a level that Wayne was having random thoughts that had nothing to do with what he was physically doing.

As a professional actor, Wayne didn’t have to concentrate on the scripted lines. He just said them when he was supposed to. I doubt he even had to think about it. Therefor, I believe as he spoke his lines, his mind wandered to other things creating these random unrelated reversals. One thing was certain to me. These reversals were not coming from the scripted speech, but from the man.

Because of the randomness in Waynes reversals, I was beginning to think I would not be able to determine any complimentary with the forwards speech or action. Because this went right to the heart of David Oates theories, I began to become concerned. However as I continued to research, I eventually found several reversals that were without a doubt complimentary to both the forwards speech and the action of the movies they were from.

In a scene where Wayne cocked a gun and took aim at a Rat, Wayne said words which produced the reversal, “I arrest you”. Given the nature of the metaphoric implications of the word “arrest”, coupled with the fact Wayne was playing the role of a Marshal, this reversal was, obviously complimentary. In another movie, I found in a staged comedy scene a reversal by Wayne that said, “Yep. This scene is funny”. I further found in another movie a reversal where, in the Prelude to a comic fight scene, Wayne produced a reversal that said, ” Get em up boys. Goddam you” just before he slugged the man he was talking to.

While I can draw no firm answers based upon the small amount of research I have done on scripted/music reversals. I am now certain that even within scripted material, it is possible to locate and anaylize reversals created by the actual speaker. His thoughts will come through even if influenced by such factors as alcohol.

I continue to work in this area in hopes to learn more. I believe that the ability to clearly define the source of thoughts from scripted reversals will become a paramount neccessity in the future. Unless the ability to separate the speaker from the writer is further developed, famous persons, politicians, and other people of prominence will surely retreat to “scripted” statements as a defense against reversal investigation.


What began for me is an interest one and a half years ago has become a firm part of my life today. In this last year, Reverse Speech has publicly matured from a “maybe” to definite existence. David Oates no longer has to fight to prove it exists. He now fights to prove what it means. That is a major step forwards in a relatively short time.

Although I do not aspire to become an analyst, I do believe I can offer contributions as an investigator of Reverse Speech. Aside from my interests within scripted material, I also plan to utilize Reverse Speech within the course of my work in law enforcement. While RS is not acceptable in court, I believe that RS can become invaluable as an investigative tool. As Reverse Speech becomes more defined and gains further acceptability, I believe it will become an integral part of interrogative techniques.

Norman J. “Jerry” Hirsch