It’s officially fall, and with fall comes apple season: Market shelves are bulging with Red Delicious, Fuji, and Gala varieties. But there are also little-known heirloom apples that are difficult to find because they don’t grow or ship as well (or aren’t as tasty) as the more common ones. These apples have funky names like Pig Snout, Peasgood’s Nonesuch, and Greasy Pippin.
Now, the AI researcher Janelle Shane has trained a neural network on 2,500 of these magnificent heirloom apple names, taken from a list published in 1905. The results: majestic names like Red Tomm of Bonesey, Kentic the Steeler, Warrior Golden Pippin of Bellandfust. “They sound a lot like they should be riding horses and waving broadswords,” Shane writes on her blog.
She’s not wrong. These AI apples, like Lady Bold, Mage, and Baldy the Pearmain, sound like they’d be right at home at a renaissance fair. Some even take a dark turn. There’s Evil Red Janet, Kulter of Death Orga, Queen Screepser, Failing Puster, Hellbrawk, and, my favorite, Rot.
Shane has previously used the same method, where she programs an algorithm to look for patterns in a group of names before asking it to come up with new variations, to produce AI-generated names of craft beers, Burning Man camps, ice-cream flavors, candy heart sayings, and even pickup lines. While many of the names the AI generates seem like total nonsense, they tend to follow certain patterns that the neural net can easily uncover. The fake names’ odd similarity to real apple names reveals just how tied we are to our naming conventions.
As for the apples, you probably won’t find one called Little Nonsy at the grocery store anytime soon. But at least we can all agree on one thing: Winter Red Spite, Ruin Red Sweet 81, or even Worsen Red would be far more apt names for the disgusting Red Delicious.