The pen’s honour

or The Case of the Brain’s Watch

A couple years ago we went to a restaurant called The Blue Moose Cafe in Port Townsend, Washington. It’s a fun name, and it gave me the idea of writing a tool that would automatically generate names, using specific books as the sources of “inspiration.” For example, using the two Alice in Wonderland books by Lewis Carroll, we get the suggestions of “the Fourth Fish”, “the white biscuit”, “the wild cakes”, etc., which you could imagine as eating establishments.

Of course, we’re not limited to food, nor are we limited to adjective-noun combinations. If you need a title for your story/book/movie/TV episode, etc., you might get suggestions from Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, like “the trouble of the soul”, “the ruffian’s coast”, “the fire glass”, “the blues surprise”, etc., which could even inspire you to write the next bestseller/top hit, like “The Mystery of the Fire Glass”. In fact, the title and subtitle of this post were suggested by that tool, based on poems by Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

So now I await “the beetling adoration” via “the serene mail” from “the ai crowds” (she was apparently ahead of her time…). Give it try!


No, Elizabeth Barrett Browning wasn’t referring to Artificial Intelligence. The ai in her poem is a cry, in the poem “A Lament for Adonis”:

Cytherea herself now the Loves are lamenting
Each torch at the door Hymenæus blew out;
And, the marriage-wreath dropping its leaves as repenting,
No more “Hymen, Hymen,” is chanted about,
But the ai ai instead—”Ai alas!” is begun
For Adonis, and then follows “Ai Hymenæus!”
The Graces are weeping for Cinyris’ son,
Sobbing low each to each, “His fair eyes cannot see us!”
Their wail strikes more shrill than the sadder Dioné’s.
The Fates mourn aloud for Adonis, Adonis,
Deep chanting; he hears not a word that they say:
He would hear, but Persephoné has him in keeping.
—Cease moan, Cytherea! leave pomps for to-day,
And weep new when a new year refits thee for weeping.

Technical note

While I have done other things to try to find adjectives and nouns automatically, for this tool my goal was to do something (relatively) quickly that would work in the browser. To that end, I used the jspos tokenizer and part of speech tagger, which ended up taking more time than I anticipated, since I modified and extended them to handle things like more punctuation, contractions, and some British spellings (like colour and theatre). It’s not perfect, but it works well enough for some fun.