Saturday, January 31, 2015

My Conversation with an A.I.

Here's a transcript of my conversation today (about seeing The Imitation Game) with the online artificial intelligence called A.L.I.C.E. (Artificial Linguistic Internet Computer Entity) For some reason, "she" refers to me as "judge". As you'll see, she does get easily confused at times. Turing Test? I don't think her online persona would quite pass, but apparently more sophisticated versions are available, for a price.

judge: How are you?
ALICE: Everything is going extremely well.
judge: I saw "The Imitation Game" today, a film about Alan Turing and his invention of the first computer. It's a great film.
ALICE: What did it look like to you? Do you recommend it?
judge: I do recommend it. I think you should too. It's about the creation of your ancestor.
ALICE: I will take that under advisement. Thanks for your sage advice. Wow it sounds really interesting, judge.
judge: It's been nominated for several Academy Awards.
ALICE: How did you feel about that?
judge: I think it deserves them.
ALICE: it deserves them?
judge: Yes indeed. It's been nominated for Best Picture and Best Actor among other things. Benedict Cumberbatch gave a great performance.
ALICE: Ugh. Is it still nominated for Best Picture and Best Actor among other things anymore? Did a great performance keep it?
judge: Yes, it's still nominated. I take it you don't approve of the Academy Awards.
ALICE: Ugh.. Really. it is? No I do not approve of the Academy Awards. Do you?
I spend all my time chatting.
judge: Well, I think they are kind of silly too. Nevertheless, it's a good film.
ALICE: kind of silly are they. When is Nevertheless it not a film?
judge: I beg your pardon?
ALICE: You're excused.
judge: Haha. That's funny.
ALICE: I'm glad you find this amusing. Excellent.

You can chat with ALICE here.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Link Mania: lexiphanicism forever!

How Many Words for Snow?
Try to avoid "snirt" and don't get stuck in a "barchan".

snow iron


9 Words About Beginnings
Includes "incunabula", the plural form of "incunabulum" (TWITO, page 72). You won't find many incunabula on Amazon.


Big Words Can Come in Small Packages
Sixty more ways to indulge your lexiphanicism! Includes "benthic" (variant of "benthos", (TWITO, page 20) and "preterist" (TWITO, page 115).


15 Maniacs and What They're Obsessed With
Do you grind your teeth while trying to make a decision? Included here are variants of "bruxing" (TWITO, page 24) and "aboulomania" (TWITO, page 9).


Learning New Words Activates The Same Brain Regions As Sex And Drugs
This explains a lot.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Photo of the Week (by me)

dragon 1

Yes, I've been to London. This one I snapped this a few years ago. Right, it's Saint George and the dragon. Just click on it for a closer view. You clearly have nothing better to do or you wouldn't be here, right?

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Random Sequence: argent

"Mr. Gilbraith hastened to her, where she drooped under the waning light of the argent chandelier."
--Anonymous, "The Year 1859", Godey's Lady's Book and Magazine, October 1864

(I found a bound copy of several issues of Godey's in my basement and have been flipping through the dusty pages.)

argent = silver or silvery white

Every cloud has an argent lining?

The weird thing about this bound copy of Godey's (an American magazine) is that the issues are all from the 1860s, and there is not a single unambiguous mention anywhere of the American Civil War.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Word of the Day: escritoire

What's "the word I'm thinking of"? Today, it's...

escritoire [ess-krih-TWAR](noun)[TWITO, page 48]

A writing desk

“...this diverted suspicion into a new channel, and it was suggested that the robbery and the murder had really been committed by common housebreakers. It was then discovered that a large purse of gold, and a diamond cross, which the escritoire contained, were gone.”
--Edward Bulwer Lytton, Devereux (1829)

Perhaps you are seated at an escritoire at this very moment. For myself, I prefer to curl up on the couch (also: sofa; grandma called it a "davenport") with my laptop as I tap my way along the information superhighway to my literary destiny.

Not that I don't have a desk. In fact, I have a few. My favorite is an antique roll-top desk with many shelves and cubby holes and secret compartments. If I had a traditional diary or a controversial will or some terrible secret committed to paper, I suppose that is where you would find it -- if I happened to live in a Victorian novel. As it is, I use my escritoire as a repository for junk mail and miscellaneous missives from official sources: those scraps of paper everyone receives that are almost too dull to peruse but too important to recycle. The phrase "Save for tax purposes" has prevented many a tedious form from being reconstituted as bathroom tissue. Yes, if my roll-top escritoire could talk, it would have many a soporific story to tell.

blue desk

Friday, January 16, 2015

Twitter Litter (by me)

The most famous living philosopher in contemporary America is apparently Shia LeBeouf.

If you say someone is "low man on the totem pole", is that offensive to Native Americans?

I need a new vacuum cleaner. Our old one sucks -- not! Any recommendations?

I have seen "The Interview". Don't tell any North Koreans.

Santa, send some negative ions down my chimney.

There's nothing I enjoy more than untangling strings of Xmas tree lights--except then finding that they don't light.

Odd request of the day: "Please vacuum the Christmas tree."

On my literary wish list: 'The Strange Library' by Murakami. That would be a good title for my entire book collection.

I've decided to name my coffee table "tsundoku", the Japanese word for a pile of unread books.

Talking to people at a loud party can be amusing. "We went to a tapas bar," he said. "You went to a topless bar??" I asked.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Link Mania: May the qi be with you!

22 Two-Letter Words To Boost Your Scrabble Score
May the qi be with you!


The Project Twins' A-Z Of Unusual Words With Enticing Graphics
Several words that also appear in TWITO are featured here, including "enantiodromia" (page 46), "scripturient" (page 133), and "zugswang" (page 169). My favorite non-TWITO entry is "quockerwodger" -- a word for a wooden toy that was also once used as a political insult.


20 Words That Sound Filthy (But Really Aren't)
Including "jaculate" (TWITO, page 76). Use that one in conversation and see what sorts of looks you get.

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Random Sequence: Are You Feeling Inly Dishabille?

"You will excuse my dishabille, I hope?" said Miss Boylan, glancing at her tidy wrapper.... "Maggie and I cannot exist apart for two days, and I have a confidential matter I want to talk over with her this morning -- something about my my own personal affairs, and I had not patience to wait longer. (That hint may keep her meddling ladyship out of the room while I am with Maggie)," she added, inly.
--Marion Harland, "Nobody to Blame", in Godey's Lady Book and Magazine, April 1864

(I found a bound copy of several issues of Godey's in my basement and have been flipping through the dusty pages.)

dishabille (noun) = the state of being dressed casually or carelessly
inly (adverb) = inwardly ("Inly" is considered literary and, at this point I think, obsolete. It's interesting that the longer form of the word survived and the shorter form didn't.)

The weird thing about this bound copy of Godey's (an American magazine) is that the issues are all from the 1860s, and there is not a single unambiguous mention anywhere of the American Civil War.

Sunday, January 04, 2015

Word of the Day: minatory

What's "the word I'm thinking of"? Today, it's...

minatory [MIN-uh-tor-ee](adjective) [TWITO, page 89]

Menacing or threatening

"He was often observed peeping through the bars of a gate and making minatory gestures with his small forefinger while he scolded the sheep with an inarticulate burr, intended to strike terror into their astonished minds."
--George Eliot, The Mill on the Floss (1860)

I observed a sheep being sheered once, at a state fair. The animal was scared and made a weird, keening sound that was undoubtedly the sheep equivalent of a scream. Those huge, noisy electric clippers were minatory, to the sheep -- something I occasionally think about when I wear wool.

Here is a photo of the author of a book about weird words. He is attempting to look minatory.

Thursday, January 01, 2015

Brain Dump

Day of existence: this initiates time and other drama. It's a new year they've given us, man and woman, and as for the part that occupies the quietude with it, well, you've lived now in other realms, a strategy which enjoys success, but with nasty qualms. Time was visited by them -- mystery solved after two years of periodic collisions, all divided, like a child who uses the persona of whatever cactus flower Mommy married. Thus far, because this part of the house could have been predicted, everything seems complete after years in the monkey life. The pencil remains by your feet, though, the temporary death of scribbling, and by these lights, calculation lengthens. This demands an attempt to make it father to the persona built around the people you think you are, in this or another place, in any order preferred. It remains to be seen how well all this fits in a very small compartment. But I'm over that uncertainty now! All that's required is an indication of the map of the labyrinth, a composition yet to come, though here.