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Birdy Nose Song, John Updike!

5 August, 2007

The 10 July 07 entry in Dwight Garner’s blog, Paper Cuts, discusses finding imaginary names for bands, based on statistically improbable phrases, or SIPs. At, 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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