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15 Dissertation Titles Translated Into Clickbait Headlines

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We’ve all become savvy to the tropes and tricks of clickbait headlines, but that doesn’t stop us from clicking on them. As it turns out, the conventions of clickbait can be applied to even the most highbrow topics. Over on Tumblr, ClickBaitPHD converts otherwise mundane dissertation topics into eye-catching headlines you can share with your Facebook friends. Here are some examples, with links to the actual dissertations where available.

1. H-Bomb designer told us to look for signals from distant galaxies. Why we can’t see them is out of this world.

Actual title: The population of submillimeter galaxies and its impact on the detection of the Sunyaev-Zel’dovich Effect

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2. These squirrels were forced to migrate south because of the Ice Age. What happened next WILL SHOCK YOU.

Actual title: Genetic structure and phylogeography of the fox squirrel, Sciurus niger, as inferred from a mitochondrial gene.

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3. What happens when you put farmers on the internet? Justice.

Actual title: The global justice movement and struggles over knowledge (link)

Book title: Global Justice and the Politics of Information: The struggle over knowledge

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4. "I got aggregate structural sample!" Take this quiz to find out YOUR sample-based hip-hop type!

Actual title: A Typology of Sampling in Hip-Hop (link)

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5. Think college students are spending too much time on facebook? At p. 57 you’ll ‘like’ what’s going on, by p. 128 you’ll LOVE it.

Actual title: First Year Students in a Foreign Fabric:  A Triangulation Study on Facebook as a Method of Coping/Adjustment

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6. Would Your Diet Help Conquer Europe? These 100-year-old secrets to healthy eating will turn your stomach!

Actual title: The Politics of the Table: Nutrition and the Telescopic Body in Saxon Germany, 1890-1935

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7. You won’t believe what is contributing to the spread of HIV! The shocking truth that politicians don’t want YOU to know!

Actual Title: A Political Epidemiology of HIV/AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa.

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8. Think You Know How Armies Work? Listen to This Guy. At p. 57 He’ll Make You Think. At p. 279 He’ll Blow Your Mind.

Actual title: Desertion, Control and Collective Action in Civil Wars

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9. These women needed to get their message across. How they did amazed me. (Hint: It may have involved quilts).

Actual title: Female Fabrications: An Examination of the Public and Private Aspects of Nüshu

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10. You NEED to See This Hot Model (NSFW) of Ethnic Politics and Foreign Policy.

Actual title: Supporting secession or maintaining boundaries: The international consequences of ethnic politics. (link)

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11. All of your brain cells have the same DNA, right? Here are 10 reasons why you’re so wrong.

Actual title: Chromosomal aneuploidy in the developing mammalian cortex 

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12. Robyn may be dancing on her own, but the rest of Sweden? Think again.

Actual title: The Musical Landscape: Music, Place and the Regionalization of Cultural Policy

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13. Ever wonder when to start burning stuff down to get what you want? These 11 Indonesian farmers’ tactics will totally blow your mind!

Actual title: Did I Say This Land Is Your Land? Patterns of Contention in Indonesian Environmental Disputes

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14. They were just taking a test, but how these students were assessed may have really f*cked them up (p < 0.1)

Actual title: Performance Goal Practices: Characteristics of Teacher Usage and Implications for Social Relationships in Elementary School Classrooms (link)

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15. Meet the Bad-ass Bards who Changed the Way You Experience the Written Word.

Actual title: Anthologizing Modernism: New Verse Anthologies, 1913-53 (link)

See more at ClickBaitPHD.

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10 Facts About Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary
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October 16 is World Dictionary Day, which each year celebrates the birthday of the American lexicographer Noah Webster, who was born in Connecticut in 1758. Last year, Mental Floss marked the occasion with a list of facts about Webster’s American Dictionary of the English Language—the enormous two-volume dictionary, published in 1828 when Webster was 70 years old, that established many of the differences that still divide American and British English to this day. But while Webster was America’s foremost lexicographer, on the other side of the Atlantic, Great Britain had Dr. Samuel Johnson.

Johnson—whose 308th birthday was marked with a Google Doodle in September—published the equally groundbreaking Dictionary of the English Language in 1755, three years before Webster was even born. Its influence was arguably just as great as that of Webster’s, and it remained the foremost dictionary of British English until the early 1900s when the very first installments of the Oxford English Dictionary began to appear.

So to mark this year’s Dictionary Day, here are 10 facts about Johnson’s monumental dictionary.

1. IT WASN’T THE FIRST DICTIONARY.

With more than 40,000 entries, Johnson’s Dictionary of the English Language was certainly the largest dictionary in the history of the English language at the time but, despite popular opinion, it wasn’t the first. Early vocabularies and glossaries were being compiled as far back as the Old English period, when lists of words and their equivalents in languages like Latin and French first began to be used by scribes and translators. These were followed by educational word lists and then early bilingual dictionaries that began to emerge in the 16th century, which all paved the way for what is now considered the very first English dictionary: Robert Cawdrey’s Table Alphabeticall—in 1604.

2. SAMUEL JOHNSON BORROWED FROM THE DICTIONARIES THAT CAME BEFORE HIS.

In compiling his dictionary, Johnson drew on Nathan Bailey’s Dictionarium Britanicum, which had been published in 1730. (Ironically, a sequel to Bailey’s dictionary, A New Universal Etymological English Dictionary, was published in the same year as Johnson’s, and borrowed heavily from his work; its author, Joseph Nicoll Scott, even gave Johnson some credit for its publication.)

But just as Johnson had borrowed from Bailey and Scott had borrowed from Johnson, Bailey, too had borrowed from an earlier work—namely John Kersey’s Dictionarium Anglo-Britannicum (1708)—which was based in part on a technical vocabulary, John Harris’s Universal English Dictionary of Arts and Sciences. Lexicographic plagiarism was nothing new.

3. THE DICTIONARY WASN’T THE ONLY THING JOHNSON WROTE.

Although he’s best remembered as a lexicographer today, Johnson was actually something of a literary multitasker. As a journalist, he wrote for an early periodical called The Gentlemen’s Magazine. As a biographer, he wrote the Life of Mr Richard Savage (1744), a memoir of a friend and fellow writer who had died the previous year. Johnson also wrote numerous poems (London, published anonymously in 1738, was his first major published work), a novel (Rasselas, 1759), a stage play (Irene, 1749), and countless essays and critiques. He also co-edited an edition of Shakespeare’s plays. And in between all of that, he even found time to investigate a supposed haunted house in central London.

4. IT WAS THE FIRST DICTIONARY TO USE QUOTATIONS.

Johnson’s dictionary defined some 42,773 words, each of which was given a uniquely scholarly definition, complete with a suggested etymology and an armory of literary quotations—no fewer than 114,000 of them, in fact.

Johnson lifted quotations from books dating back to the 16th century for the citations in his dictionary, and relied heavily on the works of authors he admired and who were popular at the time—Shakespeare, John Milton, Alexander Pope, and Edmund Spenser included. In doing so, he established a lexicographic trend that still survives in dictionaries to this day.

5. IT TOOK MORE THAN EIGHT YEARS TO WRITE.

Defining 42,000 words and finding 114,000 quotes to help you do so takes time: Working from his home off Fleet Street in central London, Johnson and six assistants worked solidly for over eight years to bring his dictionary to print. (Webster, on the other hand, worked all but single-handedly, and used the 22 years it took him to compile his American Dictionary to learn 26 different languages.)

6. JOHNSON WAS WELL PAID FOR HIS TROUBLES.

Johnson was commissioned to write his dictionary by a group of London publishers, who paid him a princely 1,500 guineas—equivalent to roughly $300,000 (£225,000) today.

7. HE LEFT OUT A LOT OF WORDS.

The dictionary’s 42,000-word vocabulary might sound impressive, but it’s believed that the English language probably had as many as five times that many words around the time the dictionary was published in 1755. A lot of that shortfall was simply due to oversight: Johnson included the word irritable in four of his definitions, for instance, but didn’t list it as a headword in his own dictionary. He also failed to include a great many words found in the works of the authors he so admired, and in several of the source dictionaries he utilized, and in some cases he even failed to include the root forms of words whose derivatives were listed elsewhere in the dictionary. Athlete, for instance, didn’t make the final cut, whereas athletic did.

Johnson’s imposition of his own tastes and interests on his dictionary didn't help matters either. His dislike of French, for example, led to familiar words like unique, champagne, and bourgeois being omitted, while those he did include were given a thorough dressing down: ruse is defined as “a French word neither elegant nor necessary,” while finesse is dismissed as “an unnecessary word that is creeping into the language."

8. HE LEFT OUT THE LETTER X.

    At the foot of page 2308 of Johnson’s Dictionary is a note merely reading, “X is a letter which, though found in Saxon words, begins no word in the English language."

    9. HIS DEFINITIONS WEREN’T ALWAYS SO SCHOLARLY.

      As well as imposing his own taste on his dictionary, Johnson also famously employed his own sense of humor on his work. Among the most memorable of all his definitions is his explanation of oats as “a grain, which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland supports the people.” But he also defined monsieur as “a term of reproach for a Frenchman,” excise as “a hateful tax levied upon commodities and adjudged not by the common judges of property but wretches hired by those to whom excise is paid,” and luggage as “anything of more weight than value.” As an example of how to use the word dull, he explained that “to make dictionaries is dull work.”

      10. HE POKED LOTS OF FUN AT HIS OWN OCCUPATION.

      Listed on page 1195 of his dictionary, Johnson’s definition of lexicographer was “a writer of dictionaries; a harmless drudge.”

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      Something Something Soup Something
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      This Game About Soup Highlights How Tricky Language Is
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      Something Something Soup Something

      Soup, defined by Merriam-Webster as "a liquid food especially with a meat, fish, or vegetable stock as a base and often containing pieces of solid food," is the ultimate simple comfort food. But if you look closer at the definition, you'll notice it's surprisingly vague. Is ramen soup? What about gumbo? Is a soy vanilla latte actually a type of three-bean soup? The subjectivity of language makes this simple food category a lot more complicated than it seems.

      That’s the inspiration behind Something Something Soup Something, a new video game that has players label dishes as either soup or not soup. According to Waypoint, Italian philosopher, architect, and game designer Stefano Gualeni created the game after traveling the world asking people what constitutes soup. After interviewing candidates of 23 different nationalities, he concluded that the definition of soup "depends on the region, historical period, and the person with whom you're speaking."

      Gualeni took this real-life confusion and applied it to a sci-fi setting. In Something Something Soup Something, you play as a low-wage extra-terrestrial worker in the year 2078 preparing meals for human clientele. Your job is to determine which dishes pass as "soup" and can be served to the hungry guests while avoiding any items that may end up poisoning them. Options might include "rocks with celery and batteries in a cup served with chopsticks" or a "foamy liquid with a candy cane and a cooked egg served in a bowl with a fork."

      The five-minute game is meant to be tongue-in-cheek, but Gualeni also hopes to get people thinking about real philosophical questions. According to its description page, the game is meant to reveal "that even a familiar, ordinary concept like 'soup' is vague, shifting, and impossible to define exhaustively."

      You can try out Something Something Soup Something for free on your browser.

      [h/t Waypoint]

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