Moist. MOIST!!!! (the science of why some people hate that word)

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New psychology research explores "word aversion," or why "as many as 20% of the population equates hearing the word 'moist' to the sound fingernails scratching a chalkboard." In a scientific paper about their study, psychologists from Oberlin College and Trinity University report that for some people the word "moist" is associated with bodily functions that trigger a visceral feeling of disgust. No surprise there. But interestingly, those "semantic features" of the word may not be the only issue at play. From their paper:

A separate possible explanation not tested in the current studies, but which the author acknowledges, is rooted in the facial feedback hypothesis. This hypothesis suggests that facial movement can influence emotional experience. In other words, if facial muscles are forced to configure in ways that match particular emotional expressions, then that may be enough to actually elicit the experience of the emotion. On this explanation, saying the word “moist” might require the activation of facial muscles involved in the prototypical disgust expression, and therefore trigger the experience of the emotion. This could explain the visceral response of “yuck” people get when they think of the word. Separate research has identified the particular facial muscles involved in the experience and expression of disgust, but no research as of yet has tested whether the same muscles are required when saying “moist.”

"An Exploratory Investigation of Word Aversion" (via Scientific American) Read the rest

UK Intellectual Property Office grants trademark on "should've"

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The trademark was granted to discount eyewear company Specsavers, whose slogan is "should've gone to Specsavers." If you object, you have until October 12 to file with the IPO. Read the rest

Trump only writes the angry tweets, the nice ones are written by a staffer with an Iphone

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On August 6, artist Todd Vaziri observed that all of Trump's angry tweets come from the Twitter client for Android, while the more presidential, less batshit ones come from an Iphone; Vaziri speculated that the latter were sent by a staffer. Read the rest

Watch language evolve as little sims wander around a grid of islands

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Language Evolution Simulation is exactly that, showing words changing little by little as time passes in a tiny world with three islands. It's agent-based, which is to say that it models little computer folk interacting with one another to simulate the little mutations that add up over time.

Rules

If an agent intersects with another, selects a word from the own vocabulary and tells that. The neighborhood receives and adds that word into its vocabulary as

- Mutation of a vowel sound with 0.1 probability

- Mutation of a const sound with 0.1 probability

- Compounding with another word with 0.1 probability

- Without any mutation

There's nothing to do but watch words change, but it feels like the underpinning of a very strange computer game about culture.

I love agent-based models; check out this simulation of political cliques I made. It randomly generates several personalities, who then go around and bicker or flatter one another. It's very bland and primitive, made in Flash, and the "next turn" text is rather fiddly to click. But I've always had plans on expanding it into a more fully featured game. Read the rest

On the bewildering regional names for corner stores

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The anglosphere has a bewildering proliferation of regional names for corner stores: "variety stores," "bodegas," "delis," "corner shops," "party stores," "package stores" (often shortened to the unfortunate "packies"), "offies/off-licenses," "milk bars," etc. Read the rest

Analyzing all known Metal lyrics with natural language processing

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Iain ("an ex-physicist currently working as a data scientist") scraped Dark Lyrics and built a dataset of lyrics to 222,623 songs by 7,364 metal bands, then used traditional natural language processing techniques to analyze them. Read the rest

Black-hat hacker handles are often advertisements

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When Bruce Sterling wrote his seminal book The Hacker Crackdown -- a history of the rise of hackers, the passage of the first anti-hacking laws, and the formation of the Electronic Frontier Foundation -- most of the hackers he chronicled had handles that were a combination of playfulness and menace, like Phiber Optik, Scorpion and Acid Phreak. Read the rest

Tolkien elf or prescription drug name?

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I scored badly enough on this that I'm thinking that my fallback career will be raiding The Silmarillion for Elvish names to sell to Big Pharma. Read the rest

Lower-case "x" as a gender-neutral typographic convention

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You can type Mx instead or Mr and Ms to denote someone whose gender is unknown or nonbinary, "Latinx" is a gender-neutral and nonbinary-friendly version of Latina and Latino -- it's part of a wider trend to backforming gender neutrality into a language that assumes gender is a binary instead of a continuum. Read the rest

Emojibot uses deep learning to synthesize expressive new nonverbal communications

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Dango is a personal assistant that feeds its users' messages into a deep-learning neural net to discover new expressive possibilities for emojis, GIFs and stickers, and then suggests never-seen combinations of graphic elements to your text messages that add striking nuances to them. Read the rest

Twitterbot that produces endless entries in an imaginary daemonological grimoire

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The Lesser Bot is a twitterbot that is writing a machine-generated grimoire, complete with summoning runes, which is timely, given that we're entering the age of demon-haunted computers. Read the rest

How to Speak Canadian

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Dan Nosowitz of Atlas Obscura has posted a pair of funny pieces on how to “speak Canadian.” I was reminded of this clip from comedy legend John Candy.

Canada RULES! I love swearing in Québécois. Also, I deeply respect Boing Boing's revered tech guru and sysadmin Ken Snider, who is Canadian.

Atlas Obscura's short guide to cursing like a French Canadian is fantastic. Basically you mutter a bunch of religious terms under your breath, like tabernak and callise!

Nosowitz also tackled one of the great mysteries of North American language, the Canadian “about”. I'm still not sure I can get my head around it.

Via Atlas Obscura:

The Canadian diphthong in “about” starts with something closer to “eh,” and migrates to a blank space on the American linguistic map somewhere between “uh,” “oh,” and “ooh.” That transition is actually easier on the mouth than the American version; our vowels go from low to high, and theirs from mid to high.

To say that Canadians are saying “aboot” is linguistically inaccurate; “ooh” is a monophthong and the proper Canadian dialect uses a diphthong. “A-boat” would actually be a bit closer, but still relies on a monophthong. Why can’t Americans get their heads around the Canadian “about”?

“What's going on is a compound of pronunciation and perception,” says Dailey-O’Cain. “The Canadians do pronounce it differently. Americans hear this and they know it's different—they're hearing a difference but they don't know exactly what that difference is.” Americans do not have the Canadian diphthong present in the word “about,” which makes it hard to understand.

Read the rest

The euphemisms news reporters use when a sports figure injures his penis and testicles

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In a recent high-stakes basketball match between the Golden State Warriors and the Oklahoma City Thunder, Golden State Warrior player Draymond Green kicked Thunder player Steven Adams directly in the penis and testicles. Read the rest

Paypal refuses to deliver online purchases to UK addresses containing "Isis"

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The Isis River, which flows through the English university city of Oxford, has inspired many place names that include "Isis," including "Isis Close." Read the rest

Space Age Language Translator!

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I never had an ear for foreign language, and after three years studying Spanish in junior high school, all I could say was “Esta lloviendo, aqui!” which means it’s raining or something like that. Pretty embarrassing.

The first time you travel to a foreign country where your native language is not spoken widely, it’s a surreal experience. Everyone sounds like the adults in a Charlie Brown cartoon.

The day of enlightenment may be upon us.

For $129 The Pilot by Waverly Labs, which hits the stores in September, will provide real-time translation of French, Spanish, Italian, and English when you insert the devices into your ears.

They look a little bulky now, but of course further miniaturization is just around the corner.

c'est magnifique!

Via Bored Panda Read the rest

The weird, humiliating nicknames George W Bush gave to everyone

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Remember when "Turd blossom" was the affectionate nickname the President of the United States used to refer to his chief advisor? Read the rest

"Tendril perversion": when one loop of a coil goes the other way

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The term "tendril perversion" was coined in 1998 by mathematicians Goriely and Tabor to describe the long-observed phenomenon of coiled cables, vines and other helixes that have one kinked loop that goes the other way. Read the rest

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