The term Panoptic means "at a glance." The Panoptic Method used to select the words is described in BASIC ENGLISH : A General Introduction with Rules and Grammar , Part II Panoptic, "How the 850 Words to their Work"

By putting the word to be tested in the middle of a circle with lines going out from it like the arms or rays of a starfish, so that on every line we get a relation or connection with some other possible word, questions may be framed in the form -- "What word takes the place of the word in the middle in this connections?" These other words will then be placed at the end of the lines, all round the circle. For example, if the key-word dog is in the middle: What is another name for a dog in connection with Time? Answer: Puppy. Clearly the word puppy will not be needed if we have dog and the connection with Time is covered by young. The same will be true of bitch, in relation to sex, if we have female in our Basic list. And when our range of questions is complete, we have a complete picture of the word in relation to all the other words in a language which have a connections with it.

If, for everyday needs, the word in the middle, used with the words on the joining line, will take the place of the new word at the end of the line, that word may go. It is not necessary in this connection. So if we have young and dog, puppy will not be kept in the Basic list. The question "What is a puppy?" is answered fully and readily by 'a young dog' on the line marking the Time-relation.

In making a map for all sorts of words there are thirty lines for thirty sorts of possible questions; though for a word like dog, some questions will not be answered. Dogs do not come into all the relations talked about in connections with men, mountains, machines, or music; so there is, for example, no special word (such as litigant, plaintiff, client) for a dog in relation to Law.

This then, is the apparatus used in 'Panoptic definition'; and when the answers are all put in on any one map, with special uses underlined, or colored, we get a picture with an important and interesting story for the Basic expert; and with its help he is in a much better position to make up his mind about the value of words for which an argument might be put forward. With his working selection of key words, he will be read to go through the Pocket Oxford to make certain that every one of its 25,000 commonest words has a place somewhere on one of the maps.

"The Panoptic Method was outlined in our Editorial of January, 1930, (Vol X, No 3)".

A planned book on the subject was never completed.

FLASH ! A member has found it ! Or, at least, a version of it.


The Word Wheel is an apparatus for putting words in the right order automatically. This is an implementation of Charles Kay Ogden's Panopticon, also called a "Word Wheel". The literal meaning of panoptic is "at a glance". The purpose of this page is to construct, at a glance using visual choices, simple sentences in Basic English.

In its simplest form it is made of cardboard and is the same size as a small phonograph record. There are seven wheels or circles on top of the other, and on the edges of these circles words are printed, so that when these circles are turned in the right way, the words make sense on a line reading from left to right from the middle of the circle.

First get these words fixed in that position:


Then you have everything as in the picture ---

The button in the middle takes the place of the word by which any statement is started. By putting in "a" or "the", where necessary, making the addition of 's' (as in 'rules') for more than one, and letting the button be the word "I", you get:

"I will give simple rules to the boy slowly."

When fixed in this way, the wheel is giving you 10 complete statements (one for every simple act):

--- and so on; the last being "I go up." Clearly, only one of these is on the natural reading-line which is marked by the pointer when the wheel is in this position.

Only these ten groups of words have been put into lines with a purpose; others (such as "copy against horse") may be in a line with one another in this position, but they are all there as separate words with no necessary connection between them.

  1. The first circle has on it will (would) and may (might) see page 53).

  2. has the ten chief names of acts. "Do' and 'be' are not there, because this little apparatus is designed only for the operations in their simplest form.

  3. has a selection of name of qualities (twelve).

  4. has a selection of name of things (twenty) which are being moved or acted on.

  5. has the names directions (twenty) in which they may be moved.

  6. has the names of the things they are put on, taken from, and so on (another selection of twenty).

  7. has four 'adverbs' by which statements may be ended, and six words by which they may be made to go on to some new statement.

Now keep everything fixed but the first circle. Then, by turning this first circle, you will be able to make statements on the reading-line starting: "I will give ---" or "I would give ---" or "I may give ---" or "I might give ---" (simple rules to the boy slowly); or again, on other lines: "I will (would, may, might) put good food on the table"; and so on.

In the same way, by moving everything but the first and second circles, you would get "I will put brown sand," "I will put warm wax", "I will put (a) new pot by the fire", "I will put good food on (the) table," and so on. Whenever any circle is turned and whichever circles are kept fixed, you get changes in the word groups for testing purposes; but, naturally, they will not all make good sense even if the words are in the right order by the rules (pages 47 and 65). It is quite as important to be certain why any statement is wrong, or does not make good sense, as to have a working knowledge of what is right.

If the statement is started with some other word than 'I', such as 'servant', so that we get "(The servant put(s) good food on (the) table", 'put' will be changed to 'puts', but "Servant(s) put good food on the table" will be right as it is. You will see that no statement is complete without some word (taking the place of the button) before the first and second circles.

After come and go you have two spaces. We come and go in different directions. We do not 'come food' or 'go food', because coming and going are moving the body, so that we take a jump to the name of the direction in which the body is moved (through glass, or up the list). It is possible to get a space after any word by turning the circle till there is no word on the reading-line at the point in question. So we may make statements like "I put (the) book here", or "The go now." If we say "I will put the book on the table, if, " the statement may be made complete by starting again at the button, ad going on with words such as "(if) I have a clean copy in the house now."

Make a note that "I will get down the wall", has a different sense from "I will get the wall down", when you are working with the names of acts and the names of directions; and give special attention to the ways in which the words on circles 2 and 5 may be moved into a line with one another to make 'verbs' (as on pages 57-59). The Word Wheel is of great value in learning this sort of trick; and another suggestion is to see how much sense you get from a line such as "might take strange key through glass slowly", which may come out, if the wheel is stopped at some chance point while it is turning. Words like these may seem at first to be no use whatever; but "I might take the strange key through the glass slowly" is quite a possible statement for a story like "Alice through the Looking-glass." Playing about with the apparatus in this way till you are certain of everything it will do, is one way of getting a better knowledge of the uses of the words, and of becoming more expert in all the little details of their sense and order.

Till the addition of 'a' and 'the' before the names of things comes naturally to the learner, it is important to be clear when and why the five words food, sand, gold, wax and oil, in circle 4, are normally used without 'a' or 'the', and in what sense thy are used with them. In circle 6 for the two other words (paper and glass) which are names of materials or substances. If we say 'a paper' or 'a glass', we are making a special use of the words (as given in The Basic Words); and though, in a different sense, we may say 'a food', or 'a gold', or 'a sand', or 'a wax', or 'an oil' of some sort, these uses are far less common in everyday talk than 'papers' or 'glasses." These details are not important at the early stages when the Word Wheel will be of most value, but they will be a help to any learner desiring to get as much as possible out of the small selection of words here given.

The subject of the sentence is what begins The intent of the action follows
Primary operator
The activity which is occurring The quality of the Thing The Thing which is first acted on
General things
or Picture Things
specific or general
Relation between the Things
relations of prepositions
relations of physical location
The second Thing which is acted on by the first
General things
or Picture Things
specific or general
Finish up with one of
a qualifier of the action
AND/OR a connector of two sentences

Ogden's Word Wheel as implemented by John Derry v.03

Unless otherwise restricted, the right to use, copy and modify this implementation is being afforded to all by the author.