British place-names generated by a neural net

Dan Hon (perfecting earlier work by Tom Taylor) trained an AI on the vast corpus of British place names, then set it loose. The results are amazing, illustrative of an uncannily human humor seemingly at work, something you'd never get from the standard syllable-randomizing place name generators of yore.

"There aren’t as many cocks as you’d think," he writes.

My favorites: Brotters Common, Boll of Binclestead, Farton Green Pear End, Weston Parpenham, Sutsy Compton, Stoke of Inch, Kinindworthorpe Marmile, Rastan-on-croan, Fuckley, Fapton, Waterwitherwell.

See also Hon's AI trained to generate Ask Metafilter post titles.

Surely neural-net-generated Liffs are next. Read the rest

Film examines truth of legendary gathering of fish-surnamed people

In 1987 or so, the Welsh island of Anglesey, legendary redoubt of the druids, hosted a similarly legendary gathering to which only people with fish-themed surnames were invited. In Fish Story, Charlie Lynn (with the help of one Caspar Salmon) sets out to unravel "the truth behind a fishy tale." Read the rest

Why people name things, and themselves, "Zzyzx"

When I was a youngster, during the golden age of prank calls before caller ID, my friend and I found the name Zerba Zzyx at the end of the telephone book. We called Mr. Zzyx and asked if he realized he was the last name in the telephone book. Much to our surprise, he pleasantly told us that yes, he was aware of that fact, and hung up. (It wasn't one of our proudest prank call moments.)

Anyway, I hadn't thought about Mr. Zzyx for many years until I just saw this post on Weird Universe about "Zzyzx Road," just outside of Baker, California. Here's the origin of the road's name:

Entrepreneur Curtis Springer decided he wanted to be the last name in the directory, so when he opened a health spa at a natural springs in the Mojave Desert he called it Zzyzx Springs, so he could promote it as "the last word in health." By 1965 he had convinced the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors to rename the road running to the springs Zzyzx Road. (It used to be Soda Road)...

Several movies have been named after Zzyzx Road, including the record-holder for the lowest-grossing Hollywood movie ever.

Sufficiently curious about any connection between Zzyzx Road and the Zerba Zzyx who I telephonically encountered in the 1970s, I did a Google search found this 1981 article from the Associated Press:

(Cincinnati) Roger Obermeyer wanted a way to make his name noticed in the city telephone book, so the advertising executive has himself listed as Zerba Zzyx, the last name in the directory. Read the rest

Interactive map of New York City's dog names

Every bubble of Dognames represents a particular name. Max and Bella lead, followed by Charlie, Coco, and Rocky, and Buddy and Lucky, and so on. [via] Read the rest

How many towns in the world have the same name as yours?

A weirdly fascinating single-serve site: How many places are named Pittsburgh? (Spoiler: three!)

There are 15 New Yorks, 29 Londons, 53 Parises, 248 San Franciscos and 320 San Antonios. But there is only one Truth or Consequences. Read the rest

Most popular baby names by state, 1910-2015

Zip through 105 years of popular baby names in this interactive map by Mike Barry. Toggle for boys or girls. We've come a long way from John and James and Helen and Mary. Read the rest

Freight train goes off tracks and hits perfectly-named bar

Last night in Charles City, Iowa, a freight train car separated from the track as it was changing connections and tipped right into the back of a bar. The name of the trackside tavern? DeRailed.

Nobody was injured.

(KCCI) Read the rest

Looks like Apple's renaming Mac OS X "MacOS"

Apple's signaled that its desktop operating system is to be renamed MacOS, making the questionable search string "OS X" a thing of the past. The new brand turned up on an environmental webpage at its site (an official manifestation of hints already found in technical documents), though it was soon replaced by the currently-official name. Read the rest

This urologist has a perfect name

If you live in Austin, Texas and need a vasectomy, how could you choose a physician other than Dick Chopp!

Dr. Richard (Dick) Chopp is well known in the Austin community for performing Vasectomies. He also enjoys treating patients with metabolic evolution of kidney stone disease, male endocrine urology disorders, prostate disease and Peyronie's disease. He has extensive laparoscopy surgery experience, is on the transplant team and performs Living Donor Nephrectomy.

(via Reddit)

Read the rest

Find out when your name was popular with Baby Name Explorer app

It's not super scientifically perfect but it's a fun tool.

Man busted for stealing from pot dispensary has perfect last name

The ideal last name for a pot pilferer in Cowlitz County, Washington.

Anakin is one of the "top baby names" in the U.S.

Granted, by "top" they mean "top 1000," but still: what on Earth are you thinking, parents? Read the rest

Man struck by lightning twice has the perfect name

Rod. His name is actually Rod. Read the rest

The world's longest name

Kim-Jong Sexy Glorious Beast Divine Dick Father Lovely Iron Man Even Unique Poh Un Winn Charlie Ghora Khaos Mehan Hansa Kimmy Humbero Uno Master Over Dance Shake Bouti Bepop Rocksteady Shredder Kung Ulf Road House Gilgamesh Flap Guy Theo Arse Hole Im Yoda Funky Boy Slam Duck Chuck Jorma Jukka Pekka Ryan Super Air Ooy Rusell Salvador Alfons Molgan Akta Papa Long Nameh Ek is believed to have the world's longest name.

At 63 words long, Mr. Ek's is at least the longest in Sweden, where the law provides an option to change one's name once free of charge. Any further changes are $149, reports The Local. Ek has changed his six times, making it longer on each occasion, and there is no official limit.

"My parents were a little confused the first time a letter came addressed to Usama-Bin Ek instead of Alexander," he told news site Nyheter24. "I don't always get my mail and sometimes the electricity bill is late, but that's part of the charm."

Ek says he goes by "Papah Long Nameh" day to day. He was born Alexander Ek. He released the above photo montage to the press, featuring his official grant of a personal name and a selfie featuring himself in a bathtub full of hot dog sausages. Read the rest

Morning Glory Road renamed after beef raised

"The Lehi City Council has renamed Morning Glory Road after a technology company planning to relocate to the street raised concerns about the name's sexual connotation." [Daily Herald] Read the rest

Political taxonomy: Obama gets a lichen, a worm, and a carnivorous lizard

There is already a lichen — Caloplaca obamae — and a worm — Paragordius obamai — named after Barack Obama. Now he also has Obamadon gracilis, an ancient, extinct, carnivorous lizard.

You can read a full write-up on Obamadon at Carolyn Johnson's Science in Mind blog. It includes some behind-the-scenes detail on the amusing considerations one has to take into account when one decides to name a specimen after a sitting president just before an election.

But I also wanted to take this opportunity to point you towards Curious Taxonomy, a fantastic list of creatures great and small and the sometimes surprising celebrities they have been named after. In the list you'll find a dinosaur named for Ross Perot, a ridiculous number of animals and plants named after Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt, and no fewer than three creatures named for Stephen Colbert.

And if you're noting that the selection of animals named in honor of Obama are not exactly the world's most flattering, never fear. Taxonomy is kind of bipartisan in its possibly-maybe-accidental insults. George W. Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, and Dick Cheney have a trio of slime mold beetles. Read the rest

A group of squid is called a ...

For the record, squid come in shoals. Not quite as good as a squad. But still nicely alliterative.

Via Craig McClain

Read the rest

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