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Thursday, April 26, 2012

Words, Part 1

It is always interesting to play games with words. To me, that's because the rules are easily described using grammars. Generative grammars, used by linguists to analyze what is and what isn't correct, can be turned around to synthesize phrases that are made to order. Thus the pedantic rule-system we are taught to follow in grade school transforms into a creativity tool. And that's the kind of table-turning I enjoy.

This game is going to be a fun one!

Let's take this grammar, chosen to be a bit cerebral:

phrase = subject in status
subject = ideas | poetry | concepts | meaning | life | creativity | invention | theories | discovery
status = motion | progress | mind | place | you | action

This is a very small grammar indeed, but it can synthesize the following example phrases:

poetry in motion
creativity in mind
theories in mind
invention in action
ideas in progress
discovery in motion
creativity in motion
ideas in place
meaning in you
concepts in action
life in motion

Actually, ideas in motion is a phrase from GTE, now used by Cisco for WebEx, the virtual meeting site. The phrase creativity in motion is used by just about everybody, including certified art therapist Gretchen Miller, whose blog of the same name is quite inspirational.

But, of course, you can change the subject to be a bit more corporate, by substituting this rule:

subject = results | growth | structure | expansion | profit | strategy | industry | disruption

I have included a simple transition diagram for this grammar, indicating the flow. And now, the synthesized phrases have a different feel about them:

strategy in mind
profit in motion
expansion in action
results in mind
structure in mind
growth in action
industry in place
disruption in motion
strategy in action

Strategy in action is a global business consulting firm, for instance. And, you can naturally also play on strengths and values:

subject = freedom | excellence | teamwork | attitude | courage | stamina | mastery

And this produces some cool inspirational cliché phrases:

excellence in action
teamwork in place
attitude in motion
stamina in you
mastery in action
courage in mind
freedom in motion

So far, nearly all of the example phrases are worthy of one of those inspirational posters. Actually, that's where I got those subjects!

Now let's look at another grammar that has a verb. This one is more about design, and one's relationship to the universe.

phrase = verb your object
verb = create | make | build | speak | shout | find
object = dreams | style | self | senses | ideas | future

This one can synthesize several interesting things also:

create your dreams
speak your ideas
build your future
shout your dreams
find your style
make your future
create your self
shout your senses

OK I'm not sure about that last one, but these are interesting phrases that can be generated by a simple grammar. In short, you can change your grammar to suit several kinds of purposes. I would wager you could create a grammar for ransom notes also, but that's not my thing.

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