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Birdy Nose Song, John Updike!

5 August, 2007

The 10 July 07 entry in Dwight Garner’s blog, Paper Cuts, http://papercuts.blogs.nytimes.com/ discusses finding imaginary names for bands, based on statistically improbable phrases, or SIPs. At Amazon.com, SIPs are defined as the most distinctive phrases that its text-search program finds. For example, a phrase occurring many times in a particular book–relative to all the books in the search program–is said to be a SIP in that book.

You can find what SIPS appear in an author’s books. According to Garner, ‘These individualized lists are fascinating and instructive – they say a lot about a writer’s prose on a molecular level.’

And because a SIP seems to be the author’s preferred choice of words, it can also suggest what an author’s might name a band, if they had one. Or perhaps a title for their next story or novel?

Here is Garner’s list of writers and their imaginary band name, based on their SIPs.
Birdy Nose Song: John Updike.

Ride Your Pony: T.C. Boyle

Jet Brooch: A.S. Byatt
Aint Nothin: Cormac McCarthy

Helmet Liner: Thomas Pynchon
Negative Perfection: Martin Amis

Whole Catastrophe: Salman Rushdie

Bearded Guy: Elmore Leonard
Good Girlie: Norman Mailer

Diving Header: Nick Hornby
Gnat Line: Tom Wolfe

Morphine Pack: John Grisham

Fudge Ripple: Anne Tyler

Photon Pistol: Stephen King

Janitor Pants: Gary Shteyngart
Baked Ziti: Philip Roth

Startled Grass: Barbara Kingsolver

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