Im bou 2 get his sim card

Bou2Gettttt I found this curious note on the sidewalk in my neighborhood. What do you think it means? And why is the phrase written twice? Was the author practicing? Click the image to see it larger.


  1. While you stood there puzzling this out, your pocket was picked, and he got your sim card. Similar to the signs that say “caution, pickpockets in the area”. People check their valuables, locating their wallets for the pickpockets who are scoping out their marks.

  2. It’s part of a listening assignment for a ESL class. The teacher actually said “I’m about to get a scimitar.” and this is what the student heard.

    (Well, maybe. I used to do natural language comprehension study in Japan and I was regularly stunned and entertained by what the students heard and wrote down.)

  3. IT WAS well said of a certain German book that “er lasst sich nicht lesen”-it does not permit itself to be read. There are some secrets which do not permit themselves to be told. Men die nightly in their beds, wringing the hands of ghostly confessors, and looking them piteously in the eyes-die with despair of heart and convulsion of throat, on account of the hideousness of mysteries which will not suffer themselves to be revealed. Now and then, alas, the conscience of man takes up a burden so heavy in horror that it can be thrown down only into the grave. And thus the essence of all crime is undivulged.


  4. My 9 year old grandaughter does stuff like this. She will create mysterious or rediculous sounding things to confuse and befuddle the old folks. She routinely hacks into her mother’s fb and writes things. “Hi everyone, I really like cheese.”

  5. All right, here’s my guess – completely straight, no joking.

    The person who wrote the note either knows, or (more likely) has been told to contact someone named Mbutu, a not uncommon African surname. They’ve only heard this name spoken, and have no idea how it’s actually spelled.

    They approximated it as “Im bou 2”, and wrote it a second time because when the “2” was on a second line, it was unclear that all three sounds needed to be grouped together to form the name. I’m guessing our protagonist as led a rather insular life, and is more familiar with names like “Bill” and “Sally”.

    As to why this individual needed to get Mbutu’s sim card, I have no speculation.

    Elementary, my dear Watson!

  6. for a month, collect every little scrap of paper on which you write a grocery list or a reminder note to yourself or a rough draft of a letter or something.

    at the end of the month, see if there isn’t something weirder. we all write banal missives to ourselves in our own private coded idiologues.

    1. @twofivesix, That a fun idea for an exercise. Reminds me of something that would have been in Robert Anton Wilson’s Prometheus Rising.

      1. Yeah, it sounds fun until you have to do it with a lawyer in the context of discovery for a lawsuit (so I am told).

  7. It seems like the first writing is barely understandable, maybe it has been written twice (second time clearer and bigger) because the person on the other end was unable to read the message the first time because of the distance (think of being in a class or something).

  8. I’m pretty confident it’s just shorthand for: “I’m about to get his sim card.” But it’s interesting to try to imagine the situation in which someone would write that down… twice.

  9. I think it’s a note from a nearly-illiterate pick-pocket to his partner in crime. He noticed a vulnerable cellphone, possibly at a bus stop or park bench, and wanted to silently inform his cohort. The first time he wrote it, it was written quickly and was smeared, making it hard for the partner to decipher, probably eliciting a bewildered shrug. So, he rewrote it larger and more clearly, and added an exclamation point.

  10. Notes in class. Talking or otherwise communicating with the holder of the SIM card (or possibly secretly working on stealing stealing it) while hurriedly writing the note and inconspicuously holding it up for another person to see. The first attempt was too hurried and illegible, so he had to write it again.

    1. As a teacher, I have high expectations that Brett’s suggestion of inschool peer-to-peer messaging is right on the money – the first iteration being smaller and harder to see suggests that the “speaker” had to try again.

      Plus, the writing on the right hand side of the page, with that clustering like a haiku, is quintessential in-school “meant to be read from nearby without the teacher seeing you” writing. Given the way the page is used, the intended reader was clearly to the right of the writer.

      This is so, so familiar. But perhaps only a teacher would see it that way?

  11. maybe it’s meant to be the chorus of a future rap song, which would kind of explain why it’s written twice (repeat 1-2)

    “Im bou 2 get his sim card”

    definitely falls in line with new-tech reffing hip-hop sentiments like “google me baby” “i got the internet goin nuts” etc etc. it could be about, like, how this girl suspects her man to be running games, and she’s plotting to steal the sim card out of his phone so he doesn’t have any other ladies’ digits. kind of like a pre-emptive “smell yo dick”


  12. It appears that the message was written twice because the first attempt was a partial failure. Once notices daubs of ink all around the note which might suggest that it took a little while to get the pen working properly. Adding support to this theory is the fact that on the second try that the text is considerably larger and more clear.

    Do I also notice an exclamation point at the end of the note? This makes me wonder if what was meant was:

    “I’m about to get his SIM card!” That would make a certain amount of sense.

  13. Taking his sim card would leave the phone useless other than for emergency 911 calls, would give the theif the information on the card such as contacts and sometimes text messages and would also be able to fake calls or use data from another mobile device.

    Truthfully, I think a woman was trying to see if her significant other was cheating on her and attempted to tell her friend what the plan was, so the friend didn’t make it obvious by asking questions or getting in the way. As suggested before, the first attempt was illegible, so a second scribble was made.

  14. David, I’m afraid you actually live in Sim City. This is simply a cruel joke on the part of the game designer.

  15. Maybe it’s a rorschach test kind of thing, but my opinion is it’s one of two things:

    1) from a woman to her friend, confiding that she thinks her boyfriend is cheating on her so she’s going to get his sim card to see who he’s been calling.

    2) from same woman to friend, saying that she KNOWS her boyfriend/husband is a cheat and is going to take away his sim card to keep him from making booty calls.

    I don’t really know how SIM cards work though, so number 1 may not even be possible.

    or come to think of it:

    3) from a mother to another family member, saying she’s going to confiscate her son’s SIM card because he talks on the phone too much, maybe written on paper and flashed to someone else so as not to interrupt the phone conversation or be heard on the other end? Maybe the person didn’t get it the first time so she wrote it out a second time, but failed to really change it at all.

  16. I think its “I vow to get his. Sim card’ like he was mad, messed up the first time, rewrote it, and trashed it.

  17. At first I thought it was the handwriting of two different people, but looking closely it was just rewritten neater.

    Brett nailed it – someone was trying to discreetly communicate this message, a plan to prank a friend, to an accomplice, without the owner of the sim card hearing.

  18. Two women were sitting next to each other in their court-ordered anger management class. During break, they had been discussing the incidents that led to their sentences. That got one of them thinking about the man she’d assaulted. She never did find out who he had been screwing around with. She thought she was over being mad. He really wasn’t worth it, but, maybe she wasn’t quite over it because right then she decided that she’s going to steal the SIM card from his phone and find out who the other woman was. She decided to share the idea with her new friend, who didn’t understand her writing. She rewrote it because it was too good an idea to keep to herself.

  19. It was one TSA agent writing to another TSA agent in the back of an unmarked van, decrypting your GSM SIM card so that they can listen on your phone calls. They wrote it twice for emphasis. All because Boing Boing posted about the TSA’s incompetence in redacting documents and harassing bloggers.


    “Mobile Phone Theft”

    “In common with many other portable electronic devices, mobile phones have become attractive targets for the opportunistic thief. There are a number of precautions users of mobile phones can take to reduce the chance of their phone being stolen and to ensure that, in the event that the worse happens, the thief is unable to make any productive use of the phone or SIM card.”

  21. the lower one, “i’m bou 2 get his sim card” was written first”. then the writer realized how he was bou’ 2 get it, and wrote the upper one as a correction “i’m bou 2 get shit sim card” then the writer’s friend shit out his sim card, and the writer picked it out using this piece of paper, hence the brown smear.

  22. It was written, obviously, as an experiment in Internet meme progeneration. And succeeded! Somewhere, these comments are being literarily-analyzed in kinda sorta a Rorchach way of determining exactly where society’s at at the end of the oughts. We are the subject, not it.

  23. I believe the author was practicing to get a message under a certain character count. Perhaps 25 characters including spaces? He wrote it out once, couldn’t read his own scrawls well enough to get an accurate count, and wrote it out again. Satisfied that he had come in under the limit, he entered the text into his device and threw away his practice sheet. I’ve never heard of a 25 character limit on a text message but given the complexity of cell phone data plans I can see all kinds of speculation and rumours that would lead one to believe in mythical character cap of 25 chars. Maybe he thought that he paid by the character or that texts under 25 chars were free on his bizarre plan. Or that keeping messages under 25 characters meant they didn’t trigger some clandestine police tracking algorithm since he seems to be up to no good. All of those are plausible urban legends. I see there is a 25 character limit on Google Adwords titles, but that doesn’t seem to fit here.

  24. On closer inspection the first one looks more

    Im bou
    2 get
    shit sim card

    complete with brown smear for added visual effect.

  25. It wold be freaking creepy to have some random note you wrote to yourself studied like an alien artifact on a popular blog.

    Here’s my interpretation:
    Its a note to self. It was written a second time because the first one was illegible.
    The writer is an employee (some sort of courier maybe) who’s work phone was stolen (but he has his personal phone with him), called his boss, and is about to get a sim card from a colleague (who’s shift is ending) to get through rest of the day.

    1. Bloodboiler, I think the phrasing seems to rule out that explanation. I.e., nobody writes “I’m about to get milk” on a shopping list. Notes to self generally don’t sound like that. The idea that it’s rewritten to be more legible makes sense to me.

      I buy and sell used books and often find bizarre and cryptic notes on bookmarks and Post-Its. A personal favorite: “Note to self: learn Middle English.”

  26. When in a boring class in school, we send notes to each other. And when our first reply is illegible, we write it again. Perhaps it was written by some teenage girl who was planning on learning about the contacts of some guy she liked. By stalkerishly stealing his sim card.

  27. Note written by ugly little brother of hottie identical twins. Frustrated after years of getting blown off by hot chicks he figures he might be able to score with the babes stored in older brothers’ cell phones, classic scenario.

  28. My SIM card got stolen by a member of the housekeeping staff at the Venetian hotel in Las Vegas a few years back. Their risk management people wouldn’t own up to it even though it was rather obvious that their people were the culprits. It cost me $35 to replace. The next time I was in Vegas I stopped by the Venetian, played a few rounds of blackjack, and stopped the moment I was up $35.

  29. Not much critical thought going on here… How about it’s a memory/to-do item?
    IM [Instant Message] ‘Bou’ to get [borrow] his SIM Card.

  30. It’s a communique written by someone undercover to someone surveilling the situation visually from afar. The message was written to keep the surveiller from acting rashly. The note was written a second time because he still needed more time to get the SIM card.

  31. oh crap…

    ya know, ever since that frog thing, random papers are subject to blog posts…and, it really isn’t that interesting….

    flag it and move on.

  32. What a naive group this is. You are all focusing on the written text, which is a blatantly obvious red herring. The content is not found in the marks on the paper made with ink and excrement, but in the encrypted pattern of torn perforations at the top of the page. I’d be willing to share the contents of the message with the group at large, but don’t want to take the fun of cracking this code with those who feel up to the challenge. Please check the comments of this post on New Year’s Eve, 2010 for the answer, if you have given up trying to decipher it by then.

  33. Oh please … the simplest explanation I can think of is it’s a scrap of note paper from someone who is hearing impaired communicating with someone at the cell phone store. Maybe their phone broke and they were getting a new one … they managed to communicate most of the information (“this one”, “here’s money”, etc.) but couldn’t get across that they’re getting a SIM card from someone else without the note. They had to write it more legibly a second time.

  34. Thanks everyone! My thought is that it is a note written by a student in class to discretely communicate to another student, and s/he wrote it again because it wasn’t clear the first time. I bet the note was to communicate the author’s plan to take another person’s sim card either as a prank or an act of theft. Of course, unless the author happens to be a BB reader, the truth will likely remain a mystery of the ages. I will keep my eyes peeled in the vicinity for any future communications.

  35. If this were a PKD story, maybe the note would be this guy’s attempt to remember the content of a vision he had about a fascinating mystery that’s soon going to send waves through cyberspace (or at least boingboing)….

  36. judging by the hand writing its obviously a student writing on a paper in class showing to another student of his/her plans.The reason its written twice is because the 1st one is unclear and the reciever cannot see it properly,so the author had to write it clearer the second time. The context was probably in a class or library where silence is essetial.

  37. It’s obviously a cry for help, borne from the much dreaded prospect of receiving the rightfully feared soul sucking SIM card of Death. From the appearance of the notepage, it is too late to help this person. We should bravely move forward, and with vigilance do our best to prevent others from befalling such a horrible fate.

  38. It is a school kid’s message. Two kids are going to steal some kid’s phone sim, first comment was likely illegible or had to be hidden from the teacher.

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