Five words

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Today's xkcd:

Mouseover title: "My other (much harder) hobby is trying to engineer situations where I have an excuse to use more than one of them in short succession."

I don't have time today to find new examples, but I'm sure commenters will be able to help us out. (But please provide citations…)

Update — Michael Ramscar asks

Why stop at five?
"A whole sentence maximum entropy language model"

And of course there's

"RoBERTa: A Robustly Optimized BERT Pretraining Approach"

where BERT is an acronym for "Bidirectional Encoder Representation from Transformers".



53 Comments »

  1. peter siegelman said,

    June 30, 2020 @ 1:19 pm

    How about Dynamic Stochastic General Equilibrium Model?

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dynamic_stochastic_general_equilibrium

  2. Peter Taylor said,

    June 30, 2020 @ 2:23 pm

    I thought that mathematics would be a great place to start – who can forget the phrase analytic and algebraic topology of locally Euclidean metrisation of infinitely differentiable Riemannian manifold from Tom Lehrer's tribute to Nikolai Ivanovich Lobachevsky? But I haven't turned up any good five-word noun phrases, so for now I'm going to stick to one which is relevant to this very website, since it is among the options that it supports for setting up HTTPS encryption: elliptic curve Diffie-Hellman key exchange. The exact phrase appears in the title of the paper that proposed it any nowhere in the body, but there are many many references on the web.

  3. Orbeiter said,

    June 30, 2020 @ 2:39 pm

    A bit facetious, but I can only think of a fictitious example from "Look Around You", a parody of British educational videos for schools.

    Maths: Mathematical Anti Telharsic Harfatum Septomin.

  4. Jonathan Falk said,

    June 30, 2020 @ 2:57 pm

    As peter sigelman outlines above with DSGE, I think the addition of the word 'Model' at the end is a bit of a cheat. GARCH models have five acronymic letters, but AR stands for AutoRegressive. What's interesting is if the phrase gets too long, initialism of some sort takes over, which is why people say CRISPR, not Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats.

  5. Brett said,

    June 30, 2020 @ 3:22 pm

    I’m sure that some physicists really have used the phrase “anomalous electroweak sphaleron transition baryogenesis.” However, it is an extremely pleonastic way of describing something. The use of “sphaleron” makes “electroweak” redundant, since sphalerons are by definition electroweak field configurations. “Transition” is redundant in connection with ‘baryogenesis,” and a “sphaleron transition” is automatically anomalous. (The whole point of sphaleron’s is that they allow transitions that violate lepton and baryon numbers, so that it is possible to generate matter without antimatter.) Normally, the topic would just be called “sphaleron baryogenesis.”

  6. Wally said,

    June 30, 2020 @ 3:30 pm

    Peter Taylor don’t leave us hanging.
    Ok I found it.

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=gXlfXirQF3A

  7. J.W. Brewer said,

    June 30, 2020 @ 3:33 pm

    Natural Language Processing Syntactic Backbone? https://hal.inria.fr/file/index/docid/73347/filename/RR-3342.pdf

    Of course if you think of the first three words as really being one constituent that might conceivably have been hyphenated to emphasize that point, maybe it's only a three-word phrase? The standard hyphenation of Head-Driven Phrase Structure Grammar probably makes it four words rather than five, as confirmed by "HPSG" rather than "HDPSG" being the standard initialism. And I suppose some and maybe most would prefer "Head-driven" to "Head-Driven" for that reason if using initial caps.

  8. Charles in Toronto said,

    June 30, 2020 @ 3:41 pm

    I used to spend a lot of time doing Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry.

  9. J.W. Brewer said,

    June 30, 2020 @ 3:45 pm

    Maybe "Transversely Isotropic Porous Piezoelectric Materials" is closer to what the cartoon guy is looking for? https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0020768309002467

  10. Philip Taylor said,

    June 30, 2020 @ 4:18 pm

    JWB — a short extract from the paper to which you link : "The coupling nature of piezoelectric materials has widespread applications in many branches of science and technology such as electronics, infranics, navigation, mechatronics, and micro-system technology". Five of the six applications make perfect sense to me, but what do the authors mean by "infranics" ?

  11. David Morris said,

    June 30, 2020 @ 4:31 pm

    More prosaically, I noticed at a suburban railway station the 'lift motor room high temperature alarm bell', which is presumably controlled by the lift motor room high temperature alarm bell sensor mechanism, which is presumably installed by the lift motor room high temperature alarm bell sensor mechanism technician.

  12. Philip Taylor said,

    June 30, 2020 @ 4:34 pm

    Only (one hopes) when properly supervised by the lift motor room high temperature alarm bell sensor mechanism technician supervisor.

  13. John Shutt said,

    June 30, 2020 @ 4:37 pm

    In an interlude in Lehrer's /The Physical Revue/, a student question runs something like "Would you say that a relativistic approach to the non-synthetic aspects of Newtonian mechanics is useful in formulating a comprehensive ontology for essentially empirical manifestations?"

  14. J.W. Brewer said,

    June 30, 2020 @ 5:43 pm

    @Philip Taylor, you're one ahead of me because I also find "mechatronics" baffling – it's a compound whose components I recognize, but I don't recognize the combination and it might for all I know be a genre of giant robot found in Japanese children's tv shows. The authors are Indian, so it is possible that these are lexemes commonly used in Indian English but not American English but it is certainly also possible that these are technical terms that some relevant subset of AmEng speakers versed in the relevant specialty (not including myself) understand perfectly well. Whether the journal this is published in would edit out markedly-regional lexemes likely to confuse readers from different parts of the English speaking world even if specialists in the relevant scientific field seems like an important factor in assessing which theory is more likely, but I don't know the answer to that.

  15. Philip Taylor said,

    June 30, 2020 @ 5:51 pm

    I have a mechatronic unit in the automatic gearbox of my Jaguar car … It consists of an integrated suite of control electronic and hydraulic valves which control the operation of the gearbox.

  16. RickB said,

    June 30, 2020 @ 5:53 pm

    The "rather suggestively named" Proton-Enhanced Nuclear Induction Spectroscopy
    (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proton-enhanced_nuclear_induction_spectroscopy) had a sibling project in the same lab with the (presumably) backronym NIPPLE.

  17. Inky Pinky said,

    June 30, 2020 @ 5:59 pm

    An itinerant sales representative for manually-operated loom parts might peddle metal heddle treadle pedals.

  18. Josh R said,

    June 30, 2020 @ 7:33 pm

    This reminds me of the time Stephen Colbert asked physicist Briane Greene to describe gravity without any dumbing down and he replied, "Spacetime is a four-dimensional Hausdorff differential manifold, on which a metric tensor is imposed that solves the Einstein field equations, and that metric tensor gives rise to geodesics, and objects that are not experiencing any other force move along the geodesic described by the metric." If I remember correctly, a YouTube comment noted that having said "Hausdorff", he did not need to say "differential".

  19. Gabriel Holbrow said,

    June 30, 2020 @ 8:01 pm

    I work in City Planning. Just last night at a meeting city councilors were discussing whether to add a Transit-Oriented Development Overlay District to the zoning ordinance. I do not know whether that counts as a "technical" phrase, but it is five words.

  20. Theophylact said,

    June 30, 2020 @ 8:35 pm

    Almost any issue of Science will produce such. Here's one from the June 19 issue, if you ignore the "for": "Microfluidic electrochemistry for single-electron redox-neutral reactions". And in the June 26 issue, "Mass-resolved electronic circular dichroism ion spectroscopy", a six-header even with the hyphen.

  21. Gregory Kusnick said,

    June 30, 2020 @ 8:49 pm

    Brimstone baritone anticyclone rolling stone preacher from the East

  22. John Shutt said,

    June 30, 2020 @ 9:09 pm

    Doh. I misspoke; that's "[…] a comprehensive ontology for the metaphysical ramifications of essentially empirical manifestations".

  23. David Morris said,

    June 30, 2020 @ 9:16 pm

    .. who holds the necessary lift motor room high temperature alarm bell sensor mechanism technician supervisor certification, gained through attendance at a lift motor room high temperature alarm bell sensor mechanism technician supervisor certification training course …

  24. Anne Cutler said,

    June 30, 2020 @ 9:19 pm

    Shouldn't this whole conversation be in German? Who needs 5 when you can do it in 1?

  25. David L said,

    June 30, 2020 @ 9:31 pm

    As it happens, I came across an excellent example just today:

    Matrix-Assisted Laser Desorption/Ionization Time-of-Flight Mass Spectrometry

    conveniently and mellifluously abbreviated to MALDI-TOF Mass Spec

  26. Dave said,

    July 1, 2020 @ 4:13 am

    For Anne: the Donau­dampfschifffahrts­gesell­schafts­kapitän (Danube Steam Ship Tour Company Captain) leads to compounds such as Donau­dampfschifffahrts­elektrizitäten­hauptbetriebswerk­bauunterbeamten­gesellschaft…

  27. Victor Mair said,

    July 1, 2020 @ 6:19 am

    When I was a little boy, I asked my Dad to tell me the longest German word he knew. With just a little coaxing, he rattled off this marvelous specimen:

    Constantinopolitanischerdudellsackpfeiffenmachergesellschaft

    (Constantinople Bagpipe Manufacturing Company)

    I instantly fell in love with that word.

    Dad was from a small Tyrolean village outside of Innsbruck and near where Ötzi the Iceman was found on the high Alpine border between Austria and Italy. His given name was Josef, but his nickname was Seppi (sounded like "Sippi" to me), which I suppose comes from the Italian form of the name, Giuseppe. Since he was from Austria, he could have said Danube instead of Constantinople, but for some reason he had grown up learning to say the latter. He came to America from Austria at the age of 11 in 1922.

  28. Anne Cutler said,

    July 1, 2020 @ 6:30 am

    @Dave: Actually I learned it as Donau­dampfschifffahrts­gesell­schafts­kapitänsgemahlin…. But I think Victor's Dad takes the prize!

  29. Marion Owen said,

    July 1, 2020 @ 9:13 am

    Re mechatronics: this is, at least in the UK, a standard name for degree courses combining mechanical engineering and electronics.

  30. Christine Bothmann said,

    July 1, 2020 @ 9:29 am

    @ Anne and Dave:
    This one is for real:
    https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rindfleischetikettierungs%C3%BCberwachungsaufgaben%C3%BCbertragungsgesetz
    (There are two Ü-Umlaute in there.)

  31. J.W. Brewer said,

    July 1, 2020 @ 9:33 am

    Re my previously-confessed ignorance of "mechatronics" and wild guess as to its possible origin, I am pleased to be informed by wikipedia that even if not specifically children's-tv-show-giant-robot-affiliated, the word is in fact of Japanese origin: "The word mechatronics originated in Japanese-English and was created by Tetsuro Mori, an engineer of Yaskawa Electric Corporation.* The word mechatronics was registered as trademark by the company in Japan with the registration number of "46-32714" in 1971. However, the company later released the right to use the word to public, whereupon the word began being used across the world." It may be the case that the word has not yet found as much favor in the U.S. as the U.K., or it may be that it is used in sufficiently specialized domains (I have fortunately not had occasion recently to need to have a detailed conversation with a mechanic about the innards of my car's automatic transmission, for example) that I haven't been exposed to it. Someone else will need to find an in-the-wild example of a five-word noun phrase including "mechatronic(s)" as one of its components.

    *FWIW, the company name "Yaskawa" looked odd to me, but it turns out that although "Yasukawa" would be the standard transliteration of the Japanese name, the company chose a different spelling to present itself in the Latin-alphabet world.

  32. mollymooly said,

    July 1, 2020 @ 9:36 am

    According to https://doi.org/10.1159/000371865 the symptoms of Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor Withdrawal include Persistent Postwithdrawal Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Persistent Postwithdrawal Major Depressive Episode with Melancholic Features. "SSRI" and "MDE" can mitigate these.

  33. Philip Taylor said,

    July 1, 2020 @ 9:43 am

    "Five-word noun phrase including 'mechatronic(s)'" — "ZF BMW Transmission Mechatronic Sleeves" (if you are willing to accept abbreviations-for-nouns as equivalent to nouns).

  34. Lindsay G said,

    July 1, 2020 @ 9:53 am

    > Matrix-Assisted Laser Desorption/Ionization Time-of-Flight Mass Spectrometry

    Laset itself is an AFWTP (Acronymized Five Word Technical Phrase), making the example given an EFWTP (Embedded etc).

  35. J.W. Brewer said,

    July 1, 2020 @ 10:33 am

    @Philip Taylor: the automatic transmission in my Alfa Romeo Giulia is sourced from ZF, which also supplies BMW, yet google cannot find me an instance of "Alfa Romeo Transmission Mechatronic Sleeves." However, I can find the impressive six-word "automatic gearbox mechatronic sleeve connector housing," offered as a replacement part for the earlier model of ZF transmissions used in some earlier Alfa Romeo models. But perhaps significantly that's from a UK website (the price quoted is in sterling), leaving me curious as to whether a US seller of replacement parts would describe the same item with the same phrasing or describe it differently. But as I said I'm hoping to avoid conversations in which anyone says to me "you need to spend money to replace the ____ in your car's transmission."

  36. Philip Taylor said,

    July 1, 2020 @ 11:41 am

    « as I said I'm hoping to avoid conversations in which anyone says to me "you need to spend money to replace the ____ in your car's transmission" » — very wise. My previous S-type required a replacement mechatronic unit, and the price was estimated at around £2350 + VAT. It was cheaper to scrap the car.

  37. ardj said,

    July 1, 2020 @ 4:59 pm

    @Christine Bothmann – thank you for reminding me of this – the whole article is hilarious, including some of the names. I used it (Rindfleischetcetera) as the real example in my "L'allemand sans larmes" talk to our (mostly monoglot French) choir years ago, to contrast with my made-up example of a mot valise, the chair of the (female) head of the office issuing express train supplementary tickets.

  38. Andrew Usher said,

    July 1, 2020 @ 5:17 pm

    Clearly acronyms don't count for what the original wanted: five-word sequences actually said as such. There are certainly examples, though.

    And although I don't know any precise technical meaning the word 'mechatronics' certainly calls to mind robots or something of that sort.

    k_over_hbarc

  39. Andrew Usher said,

    July 1, 2020 @ 5:17 pm

    Clearly acronyms don't count for what the original wanted: five-word sequences actually said as such. There are certainly examples, though.

    And although I don't know any precise technical meaning the word 'mechatronics' certainly calls to mind robots or something of that sort.

    k_over_hbarc at yahoo.com

  40. Barbara Phillips Long said,

    July 1, 2020 @ 8:12 pm

    NYU explains the field:

    “Defined broadly, mechatronics is the synergistic integration of mechanical engineering, control theory, computer science, and electronics to manage complexity, uncertainty, and communication in engineered systems. Moreover, robotics (synergistic integration of mechanical structures, mechanisms, electrical and electronic components, electromechanical sensors and actuators, microcontrollers, and programming) offers an ideal technology platform on which to construct lasting new businesses and entrepreneurial ventures. ”

    https://engineering.nyu.edu/academics/programs/mechatronics-and-robotics-ms

    In contrast, Michigan Technological University has this description in a faculty bio:

    “Mechatronics is the science of receiving, processing, and transmitting sensory data, resulting in advanced control of external devices. The physical systems currently used in industry are robotically driven and with advanced controls. Mechatronics is an essential foundation for the expected growth in automation and manufacturing in the U.S. and worldwide.”

    And on the same page in the department description, there’s this:

    “Mechatronics: at the intersections of mechanics, electronics, and computing, create simpler, more economical, and reliable systems.”

    https://www.mtu.edu/gradschool/programs/degrees/mechatronics/

    I can’t help but wonder how many qualifying five-word phrases have some variant of synergy in them.

  41. Anne Cutler said,

    July 1, 2020 @ 9:00 pm

    @Christine Bothmann – made my day

  42. David Marjanović said,

    July 2, 2020 @ 7:50 am

    BEAUti and the BEAST:

    Bayesian Evolutionary Analysis Utility
    Bayesian Evolutionary Analysis by Sampling Trees

    Shouldn't this whole conversation be in German? Who needs 5 when you can do it in 1?

    Most of these you can't, because they start with a long list of adjectives which would, mostly, be inflected words in their own right even in German spelling.

    Constantinopolitanischerdudellsackpfeiffenmachergesellschaft

    As it happens, that's an example: it is konstantinopolitanische Dudelsackpfeifenmachergesellschaft "Constantinopolitan bagpipe-pipe-maker society" – the compound noun is long enough, but the rest is an adjective* and cannot be fused with the noun.

    * Greek stem polit-, Latin adjective suffix -an-, German adjective ending -isch-, German feminine nominative singular ending -e; feminine because -schaft "-ship" (Gesellschaft is literally "fellowship") is feminine.

    (*Dudell would require final stress. *Pfeiffen makes etymological sense, and phonological sense in Upper German in the stricter sense, which is why Pfeiffer is more common as a last name than Pfeifer is; but from East Franconian on northward the long consonants were shortened after long vowels & diphthongs already in Old High German times, and that has made it into the spelling. Finally, -er is masculine nominative singular, not feminine.)

    which I suppose comes from the Italian form of the name, Giuseppe

    Possible, but unlikely; Sepp and Seppi are found throughout Austria and Bavaria. More likely it's a general baby-language thing that has worked several times independently (the Catalan full form is Josep even though the language has nothing against [f] in particular).

    Re mechatronics: this is, at least in the UK, a standard name for degree courses combining mechanical engineering and electronics.

    In German, too (Mechatronik).

    This one is for real:

    It is! And it's a branched compound noun!

  43. David Marjanović said,

    July 2, 2020 @ 7:51 am

    ("Company" is a better translation than "society" in this case.)

  44. Josh R said,

    July 2, 2020 @ 7:27 pm

    J.W. Brewer said,
    "FWIW, the company name "Yaskawa" looked odd to me, but it turns out that although "Yasukawa" would be the standard transliteration of the Japanese name, the company chose a different spelling to present itself in the Latin-alphabet world."

    In Japanese, "-u" and "-i" are generally unvoiced when between unvoiced consonants, or when following one terminally. So a natural Japanese pronunciation of "Yasukawa" would probably indeed sound like "Yas'kawa" to a non-Japanese speaker.

  45. Andrew Usher said,

    July 2, 2020 @ 7:38 pm

    There is a significant different between a vowel being deleted or just devoiced – at least in English, where stress matters so much. Perhaps, if the person choosing the translation was competent in English, he actually chose based on that, thinking the secondary stress Americans would put in 'Yasukawa' to be more alien to Japanese than the cluster /sk/.

    k_over_hbarc at yahoo.com

  46. J.W. Brewer said,

    July 3, 2020 @ 10:32 am

    Sure, "Yaskawa" is better than "Yasukawa" in terms of not misleading gaijins into an erroneous "spelling pronunciation" of the https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Su_(kana). It's just that deviations from the standard transliteration (even when that transliteration can be misleading) are rare enough that the results don't "look Japanese" to my eye, as a purely visual matter. I have been since very young accustomed to think e.g. of the final -u in "arigato gozaimasu" as akin to a word-final "silent e" in English – it sounds weird if you pronounce it, but it looks weird if you omit it in writing.

  47. stephen said,

    July 3, 2020 @ 1:30 pm

    Larry Niven noticed how many physics papers sound like science fiction, so he actually wrote a story, "Rotating Cylinders and the Possibility of Global Causality Violation", which borrows its title from a paper written by Frank Tipler.

  48. Philip Taylor said,

    July 3, 2020 @ 1:59 pm

    I have never (to the best of my belief) heard the final "u" sounded in arigato gozaimasu, even by a gaijin, but only too often I hear /temp ˈʊər ə/ or even /temp ˈjʊər ə/ for "tempura" …

  49. Joyce Melton said,

    July 3, 2020 @ 6:56 pm

    Infranics are devices or operations of devices that rely on infrared light. Some TV remotes, keyboards, door sensors, wildlife photography "tripwires" and probably other things operate this way.

  50. Rodger C said,

    July 4, 2020 @ 9:27 am

    O tempura! O mores!

  51. Jarek Weckwerth said,

    July 4, 2020 @ 1:34 pm

    As it happens, that's an example: it is konstantinopolitanische Dudelsackpfeifenmachergesellschaft "Constantinopolitan bagpipe-pipe-maker society" – the compound noun is long enough, but the rest is an adjective* and cannot be fused with the noun.

    Thank you, David, for pointing this out!

  52. Josh R said,

    July 5, 2020 @ 9:18 pm

    J.W. Brewer said,
    "Sure, "Yaskawa" is better than "Yasukawa" in terms of not misleading gaijins into an erroneous "spelling pronunciation" of the https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Su_(kana). It's just that deviations from the standard transliteration (even when that transliteration can be misleading) are rare enough that the results don't "look Japanese" to my eye, as a purely visual matter."

    Oh, absolutely. I remember when I first came to Japan, a friend of mine had a Mazda Miata. Now the Miata is called the Roadster for unrelated reasons, but I remember a distinct "Oh!" reaction when she said "Matsuda" instead of the expected "Mazuda". Until then, it simply hadn't occurred to me that Mazda was a Japanese company.

    One wonders if perhaps that precedent was also behind, to some extent, the "Yaskawa" decision.

    Philip Taylor said,
    "I have never (to the best of my belief) heard the final "u" sounded in arigato gozaimasu, even by a gaijin, but only too often I hear /temp ˈʊər ə/ or even /temp ˈjʊər ə/ for "tempura" …"

    You can hear final "u" very prominently if you talk to the grandes dames of Osaka or Kyoto. As for "tempura", "tempyera" pronunciations aside, it is uncommon to devoice the "pu", since the following phoneme is voiced.

  53. Philip Taylor said,

    July 6, 2020 @ 6:11 am

    It was more the second syllable stress to which I was alluding, Josh; given that the "u", even if not de-voiced, is nonetheless given nothing like its full value in the conventional Japanese pronunciation of "tempura", to stress what should be (to my mind) the least-stressed syllable [1] would seem somewhat perverse. And I am afraid that I was never fortunate enough to have any conversations with (or even listen to) the grandes dames of Kyoto, but I did have some very pleasant conversations with the shikomi there !
    ——–
    [1]ˈ天 ぷ ˌら is how I think of the word.

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