X is the Y of Z: Infectious Death Cult Edition

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The MedPage Today Tweet of the Week:

Some LLOG background:

X as the Y of Z“, 7/28/2006
X as the Y of Z, again“, 3/25/2008
Obama is the Y of Z“, 11/5/2008
The Rosa Parks of Blogs“, 12/20/2008
X is the Y of Z: pop music edition“, 4/4/2009

This suggests a new challenge for approaches to “distributional semantics” (e.g. Tomas Mikolov et al., “Distributed Representations of Words and Phrases and their Compositionality“, NIPS 2013; Paramveer Dhillon et al., ‘Two Step CCA: A new spectral method for estimating vector models of words“, ICML 2012).

One of the standard tasks is analogies: X is to Y as Z is to __?  So you could define a new task, __ is the Y of Z, or X is the __ of Z, or X is the Y of __.  The answers will be a more dependent on individual aesthetic judgments, of course, but what the task loses in objectivity it may gain in amusement.

Update — JP points us in the comments to Teju Cole, “What it is“, The New Yorker 10/7/2014, which offers a chunk of training data for our new “X is the Y of Z” task:

Is Ebola the ISIS of biological agents? Is Ebola the Boko Haram of AIDS? Is Ebola the al-Shabaab of dengue fever? Some say Ebola is the Milosevic of West Nile virus. Others say Ebola is the Ku Klux Klan of paper cuts. It’s obvious that Ebola is the MH370 of MH17. But at some point the question must be asked whether Ebola isn’t also the Narendra Modi of sleeping sickness. And I don’t mean to offend anyone’s sensitivities, but there’s more and more reason to believe that Ebola is the Sani Abacha of having some trouble peeing. At first there was, understandably, the suspicion that Ebola was the Hitler of apartheid, but now it has become abundantly clear that Ebola is actually the George W. Bush of being forced to listen to someone’s podcast. Folks, this thing is serious. The World Health Organization calls it the Putin of Stalin. In layperson’s terms, that’s like saying it’s the Stalin of U2. Now we are seeing the idea thrown around that it could be the Black Hand of the Black Death, not to mention the Red Peril of the Red Plague. If you don’t want to go that far, you have to at least admit that Ebola is the Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb of Stage IV brain cancer. At this point, it’s very possible that Ebola could become airborne and turn into the Tea Party of extreme climate events. Throughout the country of Africa, Ebola is the Abu Ghraib of think pieces. Look, I’m not the politically correct type, so I’m just going to put this out there: Ebola is the neo-Nazism of niggling knee injuries. The kind of threat it poses to the American way of life essentially makes it the North Korea of peanut allergies. I’m not going to lie to you, and I don’t care what color you are, you could be red, green, blue, purple, whatever; you need to understand that Ebola (the Obama of Osama, but don’t quote me) is literally the “Some of my best friends are black” of #NotAllMen. But the burning question no one has raised yet is whether Ebola is the Newsweek of halitosis. We’ll go to the phones in a moment and get your take on this. But first let me open the discussion up to our panel and ask whether Ebola is merely the Fox News of explosive incontinence, or whether the situation is much worse than that and Ebola is, in fact, the CNN of CNN.

 



23 Comments

  1. Dick Margulis said,

    October 10, 2014 @ 5:25 pm

    You mean it’s not ebolagate?

  2. JP said,

    October 10, 2014 @ 5:42 pm

    This New Yorker piece provides some alternative analogies, including “the Putin of Stalin,” ” the George W. Bush of being forced to listen to someone’s podcast,” and “the CNN of CNN.”
    http://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/what-is-ebola

  3. narmitaj said,

    October 10, 2014 @ 6:08 pm

    New “X is the Y of Z” (non death-cult but with fightback and counter-argument) from new BBC series The Detectorists, at 16:28 if you can get it.

    TOBY JONES: “Saxon hoard… it’s basically the holy grail of treasure hunting”
    MACKENZIE CROOK: “No, the Holy Grail is the holy grail of treasure hunting”
    TOBY JONES: “Well, if you’re going to be pedantic, the Ark of the Covenant is the holy grail”.

  4. Nancy Friedman said,

    October 10, 2014 @ 6:16 pm

    He’s no longer updating it, but The Rosa Parks of Blogs, by Mark Peters, is a trove of such comparisons: http://rosaparksofblogs.blogspot.com/

  5. Roger Lustig said,

    October 10, 2014 @ 8:13 pm

    “Verdi is the Puccini of music.”
    –attributed to Stravinsky

  6. Atombrecher said,

    October 10, 2014 @ 8:42 pm

    I’ll pre-empt the name “Infectious Death Cult” for Melodic Death Metal purpose. This group might very well be the CNN of your audition.

  7. Robot Therapist said,

    October 11, 2014 @ 2:22 am

    I’m cornfused. The original (shown on the screen) and the caption (“this is the Katrina of Isis analogies”) both fit the pattern where the thing after “of” is the category. Ebola IS a biological agent, and the thing on the screen IS an ebola analogy. The “Detectorists” quote fits the pattern too.
    The NY piece either ignores, or doesn’t understand, the pattern.
    Or am I missing something?

  8. Peter said,

    October 11, 2014 @ 4:03 am

    If only English were a little more agglutinating, these would be helping to develop our mandatory two hundred words for Ebola.

  9. Stan Carey said,

    October 11, 2014 @ 4:43 am

    I second Nancy’s recommendation of The Rosa Parks of Blogs. It’s the Tommy Cooper of language blogs.

  10. Martin Ball said,

    October 11, 2014 @ 5:10 am

    George Harrison was the Ringo Starr of the Beatles …

  11. tpr said,

    October 11, 2014 @ 6:14 am

    It seems clear to me that the original analogy, as daft as it is, was meant to compare Ebola to ISIS as the most frightening of their respective categories (biological agents and terrorist groups respectively). This is a ridiculous thing to say but the meaning is intelligible, which is why I find it a bit jarring that the author of the New Yorker piece is attempting to make fun of it by using a bunch of unintelligible analogies. They seem to be making fun of the wrong thing. The tweet about it being the Katrina of ISIS analogies was much more on target.

  12. Nancy Friedman said,

    October 11, 2014 @ 6:15 am

    This just in:
    “Some say Ebola is the Milosevic of West Nile virus. Others say Ebola is the Ku Klux Klan of paper cuts. It’s obvious that Ebola is the MH370 of MH17.”
    Teju Cole in the New Yorker: http://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/what-is-ebola

  13. Nancy Friedman said,

    October 11, 2014 @ 6:27 am

    Blergh. Neglected to read the update. Apologies.

  14. Jacob said,

    October 11, 2014 @ 8:51 am

    The knee is the Achilles’ heel of the leg.

  15. Rodger C said,

    October 11, 2014 @ 10:35 am

    @Roger Lustig: I always heard it was Nietzsche who said, “Wagner is the Puccini of music.” Or maybe Oscar Wilde. Instead of Nietzsche, I mean.

  16. Jeff Carney said,

    October 11, 2014 @ 11:09 am

    Clearly the New Yorker piece is doing nothing more nor less than poking fun at the absurdity of CNN’s comparison, and it does not warrant close scrutiny. I think it’s the only New Yorker column that has caused me to laugh out loud since I started reading the NY back in the 80s.

  17. AntC said,

    October 11, 2014 @ 7:05 pm

    @Martin BallGeorge Harrison was the Ringo Starr of the Beatles …

    There’s a Beatles interview where John says “Ringo isn’t even the best drummer in the Beatles.” [I think some sycophantic journo has asked if Ringo were the best drummer ever.]
    http://www.omgfacts.com/lists/10122/John-Lennon-said-Ringo-Starr-wasn-t-even-the-best-drummer-within-The-Beatles

  18. Sybil said,

    October 11, 2014 @ 8:57 pm

    Ebola wants to seize control of some part of Africa and turn it into an Ebola state? Ebola kills westerners in a flagrant and public way because it’s a good way to publicize its cause?

    I much prefer Stravinski’s (alleged) “Verdi is the Puccini of music.” At least that one I understood, even if I couldn’t figure it out.

  19. Sybil said,

    October 11, 2014 @ 9:17 pm

    @ Dick Margulis: Rather then “Ebolagate”, I’d prefer “Ebolageddon”.

    It’s always worked so well in NYC.

  20. BZ said,

    October 13, 2014 @ 8:50 am

    I don’t see any problem with this headline. Both Ebola and ISIS are currently top stories. Both dominate their categories and as of today arguably the pose the biggest short-term threat in their respective categories.

  21. ajay said,

    October 14, 2014 @ 5:55 am

    It seems clear to me that the original analogy, as daft as it is, was meant to compare Ebola to ISIS as the most frightening of their respective categories (biological agents and terrorist groups respectively). This is a ridiculous thing to say but the meaning is intelligible, which is why I find it a bit jarring that the author of the New Yorker piece is attempting to make fun of it by using a bunch of unintelligible analogies.

    It is probable that Teju Cole is not entirely sure what a biological agent is.

  22. Ray Dillinger said,

    October 14, 2014 @ 11:30 am

    And here I was thinking it was a blatant attempt to escalate fear rather than provide substantive information. Oh, wait, we only call it an ‘attempt’ if it fails, isn’t it?

  23. Ray Dillinger said,

    October 14, 2014 @ 11:31 am

    And here I was thinking it was a blatant and deliberate attempt to escalate fear rather than provide substantive information. Oh, wait, we only call it an ‘attempt’ if it fails? Never mind then.

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