Sexing up “6-gram”

3 Jul


Most of natural language processing (NLP) is built off of unigrams—that is, single words or word-like things (like an emoticon or a !?!?). Models sometimes give you bigrams and trigrams. When people talk about these as a group, they refer to n-grams. But why use “6-gram” when you can say “sexagram”? I think you’d only say 13-gram if you were “absurdly absolutely irrationally fearful frightened and afraid of other lovely words like triskaidekaphobia” (that’s a triskaidecagram for you, you can spell it with a k or go for the resonance of a middle-c).

Note that you can swap out “-gram” for your favorite root. Why call it an 18-wheeler when you can call it a octakaidecacycle?

Using Latin and Greek roots to talk about ngrams

The Wikipedia article on numeral prefixes is pretty fun, but if you like this kind of thinking, you should check out Stephen Chrisomalis’ page on Numerical Adjectives. My favorite excerpt:

One of the most peculiar numeral words in English is “zenzizenzizenzic”, which means “the eighth power of a number”, as in “The zenzizenzizenzic of 2 is 256”. It was used only once in English, in Robert Recorde’s The Whetstone of Wit (1557). It is derived from an equally-obsolete “zenzic”, which referred to the square of a number. It is the only English word with six Zs, and is thus, if I may be allowed to coin a term, hexazetic.

– Tyler Schnoebelen (@TSchnoebelen)



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