Quantifying the influence of 4chan's alt-right trolls on normies' discourse

In a proceedings paper presented at a Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence social media conference, a team of British, Italian, and Cypriot academics who worked with a Telefonica researcher presented their work analyzing 8,000,000 comments from 4chan's "politically incorrect" (AKA /pol/) boards, a hive of alt-right racism and hate. Read the rest

Robot wisdom from a deep learning system trained on ancient proverbs

Janelle Shane trained a recurrent neural network with a data-set of more than 2000 ancient proverbs and asked it to think up its own: "A fox smells it better than a fool’s for a day." Read the rest

What colors do you get when you spell words in hex?

The hexidecimal color #C0FFEE (192 Red, 255 Green, 238 Blue, on a scale of 0-255) is a pleasing greenish color, while #BEADED is a kind of mauve. Read the rest

English isn't uniquely expressive or fluid, but it is uniquely, dysfunctionally weird

Lots of languages are hybridized from multiple, overlapping waves of conquerers, "but English’s hybridity is high on the scale compared with most European languages," which gives us a realm of weird pronunciations, weirder spellings, inconsistent grammar, and a near-unique situation whereby speakers of languages that are close cousins to English can more-or-less understand English, too.

The amalgam of inconsistently blended Celtic, Norse, French and Latin make English a nightmare to learn, speak and spell -- which makes the language's success in the world something of a miracle.

As long as the invaders got their meaning across, that was fine. But you can do that with a highly approximate rendition of a language – the legibility of the Frisian sentence you just read proves as much. So the Scandinavians did pretty much what we would expect: they spoke bad Old English. Their kids heard as much of that as they did real Old English. Life went on, and pretty soon their bad Old English was real English, and here we are today: the Scandies made English easier.

I should make a qualification here. In linguistics circles it’s risky to call one language ‘easier’ than another one, for there is no single metric by which we can determine objective rankings. But even if there is no bright line between day and night, we’d never pretend there’s no difference between life at 10am and life at 10pm. Likewise, some languages plainly jangle with more bells and whistles than others. If someone were told he had a year to get as good at either Russian or Hebrew as possible, and would lose a fingernail for every mistake he made during a three-minute test of his competence, only the masochist would choose Russian – unless he already happened to speak a language related to it.

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Anthony Burgess's lost, incomplete slang dictionary re-discovered

Burgess's fascination with slang extended well past Nadsat, the synthetic Russo-English dialect he invented for A Clockwork Orange; his autobiography mentions in passing that he'd begun work on a dictionary of slang but gave it up: "I’ve done A and B and find that a good deal of A and B is out of date or has to be added to, and I could envisage the future as being totally tied up with such a dictionary." Read the rest

Ninth Circuit creates groundbreaking jurisprudence for "sexy cops"

The Ninth Circuit's opinion in Santopietro v. Howell marks an important turning point in US jurisprudence, marking the first-ever time that a federal judge has used the phrase "sexy cop" in a decision. Read the rest

America's leading nickname for crystal meth is "Donald Trump"

Looking to score some rock? Be sure to ask for "Trump" (also acceptable: "Agent Orange," "Cheeto-in-Chief," "Mango Mussolini," or "Putin's Puppet").

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Translate between Charles Babbage's computing jargon and modern terminology

If you're intending to build an analytical engine with a six-sided prism to run Charles Babbage's weird cardboard vaporware program, you will need some help with Babbage's notes, as old Charles was inventing a whole technical vocab from scratch. Read the rest

Ranking authors by their adverb use

The famously spare Hemingway used 80 words ending in -ly per 10,000 words of prose; JK Rowling uses 140 adverbs per 10,000 words, and EL James uses 155. Read the rest

The word "sheeple" is now in the dictionary, with Apple fans as example

Merriam-Webster added "sheeple" to their dictionary. It's defined as "people who are docile, compliant, or easily influenced : people likened to sheep." Here's one of the two usage examples they include:

Apple's debuted a battery case for the juice-sucking iPhone—an ungainly lumpy case the sheeple will happily shell out $99 for.
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Train your AI with the world's largest data-set of sarcasm, courtesy of redditors' self-tagging

Redditors' convention of tagging their sarcastic remarks is a dream come true for machine learning researchers hoping to teach computers to recognize and/or generate sarcasm. Read the rest

Tracing how languages are related to one another

In this video for Mental Floss, linguist Arika Okrent and illustrator Sean O’Neill share the keys to understanding commonalities between languages.

[via Laughing Squid] Read the rest

Gendered verbs charted over 100,000 stories

Data scientist David Robinson tracked the proximity of verbs to gender across 100,000 stories. She screams, cries and rejects. He kidnaps, rescues and beats.

I think this paints a somewhat dark picture of gender roles within typical story plots. Women are more likely to be in the role of victims- “she screams”, “she cries”, or “she pleads.” Men tend to be the aggressor: “he kidnaps” or “he beats”. Not all male-oriented terms are negative- many, like “he saves”/”he rescues” are distinctly positive- but almost all are active rather than receptive.

The chart on which types of violence are associated with men and women is predictable stuff: poison from the ladies, beatings from the gentlemen.

It follows on from Julia Silge's look at gender roles and text mining. See also an attempt to do likewise with plot arcs. Read the rest

How Disney uses language in its music

The Sideways YouTube channel digs into the many different ways Disney has used foreign languages in its animated musical movies over the years. Read the rest

What the Terminator says instead of "Hasta La Vista, baby" in the Spanish version of Terminator 2

In the Japanese version, he says "Cheerio then, love." Read the rest

How do new words get in the dictionary?

Kory Stamper, author of the new book Word by Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries describes three criteria Merriam-Webster uses for inclusion of words like truther, binge-watch, photobomb and the 1,000 other words that make the cut in a typical year. Read the rest

Learn 12 different accents in under four minutes

Dialect coach Sammi Grant gives a crash course in a dozen different accents including my favorite, the Transatlantic accent. (Think Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant. More on that here.)

"I’m legally blind and one of the reasons I got into dialect coaching is because I love to hear people’s voices and help people find the range of their voices," Grant says.

(via Laughing Squid)

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