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dclayh comments on Why You're Stuck in a Narrative - Less Wrong

38 [deleted] 04 August 2009 12:31AM

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Comment author: dclayh 04 August 2009 01:20:33AM 6 points [-]

So we're much better at remembering things as part of a pattern than as a random assortment.

Two famously difficult to remember "nonsense" texts:

So she went into the garden to cut a cabbage-leaf to make an apple-pie; and at the same time a great she-bear, coming up the street, pops its head into the shop. "What! No soap?" So he died, and she very imprudently married the barber; and there were present the Picninnies, and the Joblillies, and the Garyalies, and the grand Panjandrum himself, with the little round button at top, and they all fell to playing the game of catch-as-catch-can till the gunpowder ran out at the heels of their boots.

and

Given the existence as uttered forth in the public works of Puncher and Wattmann of a personal God quaquaquaqua with white beard quaquaquaqua outside time without extension who from the heights of divine apathia divine athambia divine aphasia loves us dearly with some exceptions for reasons unknown but time will tell and suffers like the divine Miranda with those who for reasons unknown but time will tell are plunged in torment plunged in fire whose fire flames if that continues and who can doubt it will fire the firmament that is to say blast hell to heaven so blue still and calm so calm with a calm which even though intermittent is better than nothing but not so fast and considering what is more that as a result of the labors left unfinished crowned by the Acacacacademy of Anthropopopometry of Essy-in-Possy of Testew and Cunard it is established beyond all doubt all other doubt than that which clings to the labors of men that as a result of the labors unfinished of Testew and Cunnard it is established as hereinafter but not so fast for reasons unknown that as a result of the public works of Puncher and Wattmann it is established beyond all doubt that in view of the labors of Fartov and Belcher left unfinished for reasons unknown of Testew and Cunard left unfinished it is established what many deny that man in Possy of Testew and Cunard that man in Essy that man in short that man in brief in spite of the strides of alimentation and defecation wastes and pines wastes and pines and concurrently simultaneously what is more for reasons unknown in spite of the strides of physical culture the practice of sports such as tennis football running cycling swimming flying floating riding gliding conating camogie skating tennis of all kinds dying flying sports of all sorts autumn summer winter winter tennis of all kinds hockey of all sorts penicillin and succedanea in a word I resume flying gliding golf over nine and eighteen holes tennis of all sorts in a word for reasons unknown in Feckham Peckham Fulham Clapham namely concurrently simultaneously what is more for reasons unknown but time will tell fades away I resume Fulham Clapham in a word the dead loss per head since the death of Bishop Berkeley etc.

Comment author: CronoDAS 04 August 2009 01:43:58AM *  13 points [-]

I couldn't even finish reading the second one.

Contrast this famous piece of nonsense:

'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves Did gyre and gimble in the wabe; All mimsy were the borogoves, And the mome raths outgrabe.

"Beware the Jabberwock, my son! The jaws that bite, the claws that catch! Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun The frumious Bandersnatch!"

He took his vorpal sword in hand: Long time the manxome foe he sought -- So rested he by the Tumtum tree, And stood awhile in thought

And as in uffish thought he stood, The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame, Came whiffling through the tulgey wood, And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! and through and through The vorpal blade went snicker-snack! He left it dead, and with its head He went galumphing back.

"And hast thou slain the Jabberwock? Come to my arms, my beamish boy! O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!" He chortled in his joy.

'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves Did gyre and gimble in the wabe; All mimsy were the borogoves, And the mome raths outgrabe.

Comment author: scav 04 August 2009 12:39:52PM 6 points [-]

Yes, a constrast indeed. It contains nonsense vocabulary, but it's a perfectly coherent story, so not hard to remember.

Note also, in D&D and probably other related cultures, a "vorpal" weapon has come to mean a magic weapon with a chance of automatically decapitating a foe. And this is pure narrative compression too: in the poem, the hero goes galumphing back with the jabberwock's head after using the vorpal blade to defeat it. The poem doesn't say the jabberwock was killed by decapitation, but it's too easy to join the dots between the snicker -snack and the victorious galumphing, and thus extract an unconscious theory about what it is that "vorpal" blades do.

Comment author: SoullessAutomaton 05 August 2009 02:06:30AM 4 points [-]

It contains nonsense vocabulary, but it's a perfectly coherent story, so not hard to remember.

Nonsense vocabulary that was also carefully crafted to sound plausible, with echoes of meaning and associations to existing words.

I doubt it's possible to be any more comprehensible than Jabberwocky without using only real words.

Comment author: MBlume 04 August 2009 02:18:33AM 1 point [-]

Thanks for reminding me to reread Godot =)