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The Gyllenhaal Experiment (pudding.cool)
437 points by iron0013 26 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 117 comments

Oh that was disappointing - I hadn't heard of one of them so I hit what I thought was the "skip" button, and it took me straight to the results of all of the questions without letting me try any of the rest.

I realise that this is because I am stupid - there is a warning, but I thought it was just warning me I wouldn't be able to try that question again, not that I wouldn't be able to try any of them. (It said that you wouldn't be able to go back again, but I didn't want to go back - I wanted to go forward.) Boo.

No, you're not stupid.

"Skip" implies moving to the next item "Skip to results" is a confusing way to phrase it. I guess "Go to results" would've made more sense. Weirdly, the actual skip button is labeled "Show Me Another".

Apparently, it happened to a lot of people. It's bad UX in an otherwise amazingly designed article.

Right click link -> Open link in incognito window

Hacky workaround, yes, but this is HN after all

or you can just delete your site cookies. I strongly doubt that they are fingerprinting you.

It's in local storage. I did the same as GP, and the data for your responses is in local storage.

Yep, deleting cookies via dev tools brings back the quiz.

Yeah, I fell victim to that as well. Had to open in incognito to get round it. There's also a really annoying scrolling feature where when you click in the text box the page scrolls down to hide the person's photo. No idea why they implemented that.

The same thing happened to me

Did some programming for analysis of the Middle English Dialect project way back when. This was based on corpus of 320 words as they were spelt by scribes in different parts of the UK. Often the same scribe would spell a word 3 or 4 different ways in the same document. But there were regional variations etc. Fascinating topic. Helped to draw maps like:



>Chuck Palahniuk

I've been reading his books since I found out who wrote Fight Club in 1999. My brain does NOT want to remember how to spell his name. It makes me feel like I have a learning disability.

I can never spell "bureaucracy" correctly without assistance. I always have to spell check it. Sometimes I can't even get close enough to spell check. I can't think of any other English words I have such trouble with.

Can you spell bureau?

Maybe you can make a mnemonic, how are you with spelling burette?

A crazy person is using a burette with a gold (Au) end, extruding a 3D wireframe model of a desk (bureau):

Bure(tte)+au+crazy ... and hopefully you can remember where the final "c" goes.

I cannot spell bureau. It trips me up even typing it. Maybe this is the thread that will have finally jammed it into my brain. I'll get back to you in a week or so. :-)

I always think of Jim Carry in Bruce Almighty spelling out


Surprisingly it helps with words that have that 'eau' mash of vowels.

It's Jim Carrey, you just added one data point to the experiment ;)

Doesn't apply to bureau, but I'm 100% there with you for the word beautiful. I simply can't hear the word in my heard without hearing Jim Carrey spell it out.

Same thing with P-A-R-T-Y? 'Cause we gotta!

But that's not how you spell bureau.

How about "eau", like French for water?

Okay got it, that will help. I’ve just made a mental note between bureau and eau de toilette. Thanks!

Edit: this got me wondering about bureau’s etymology. It’s a strange one:

The story of the word bureau is one of substitutions. In its original French, bureau originally named a “coarse woolen cloth,” particularly baize, the green, felt-like fabric that covers card and pool tables. Historically, bureaus draped desks, desks filled offices, and offices housed the business of governmental agencies ... Etymologically, though, bureau wasn’t green. The term derives from burel, an Old French diminutive of bure, “dark brown cloth.” Bure, in turn, may be from the Latin burrus, a word for “red” and related to the “fiery” Greek root that gives English pyro. Alternatively, the Old French bure may come the Latin burra, “shaggy garment” or “flock of wool.”

Bureau appears in English in French contexts as early as 1664 for an “office” or “business,” natively established by 1720. In the 1690s, bureau harkened back to its earlier sense of “writing desk” and extended to a “chest of drawers” by 1755, which the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) notes as a chiefly American usage.


And "scarlet" doesn't originally mean "red". Thanks, 99% Invisible podcast!

Chest of drawers is how it's used in Swedish too. (And also for government or other agency.)

> I cannot spell bureau. It trips me up even typing it.

If it makes you feel any better, it trips me up reading it; I had to do 3 takes before my brain accepted that those letters were a word, and I still can't tell how to pronounce it. I suspect the problem is "eau"; that is a lot of vowels together for an English speaker.

The "eau" is common in words derived or taken directly from the French (e.g. "beautiful")...

I have to do bureau-cracy every time. But only after my brain tries to freehand it wrong. Usually twice. Maybe that’s the real reason I hate bureaucracies.

Beurau... no that’s not right what is it again? Buer... fuck.

The other day I got some funny looks when I yelled ‘exercise’ at my phone in a locker room because I couldn’t remember how to spell it.

I always go through "exersize", no, wait, "exercize", no, wait, "exercise."

I always get there, but it always takes me there tries.

> I can't think of any other English words I have such trouble with.

Probably because it's more french than english :) Not an easy one either: English speakers have a lot of trouble with the "u" sound and "eau" pronounced "o" is far from obvious.

Apparently the two years of French I took in high school didn't help me with my English either. :-(

7 years french => I keep screwing up "Peugeot" (cars)

Including Renault we now have 2 weird ways to spell the O sound in French (eau, eo) and 1 weird silent pair of consonants (lt).

It's not "eo" that gives you the "o" sound, it's just the "o". The "e" is here to prevent the "g" from being pronounced hard, as in "green".

And why is there an e in bureau then? Would burau, buro, burot, burault or bureot be pronounced differently in French?

They would not; there are only etymological reasons.

Well, that one's dumb because it has an R in it.

Yep, that's one of the main ones I can never spell either!

It sometimes help if I try to remember "bureau". bureaucracy is an organization governed by bureaus. But if I think about it too much, I just lose the ability to spell bureau too.

Is it easier to spell “bureau” itself correctly? If so, you might be able to use that as a mnemonic. You can also take the “-cracy” part from other words like “democracy”.

Spanish imported it as burocracia, much easier!

That's what I love about Spanish. There is this iron-clad rule that everything is spelt exactly as it's pronounced. Compared to English (or French), it's so ridiculously easy that (I sometimes think to myself) it must be a toy, not an actual human language.

And when they borrow words from other (not phonetic) languages, they just say "to hell with that spelling", and spell it in a perfectly logical way themselves.

There is an actual rule from the Real Academia that says that you can spell some imported words either as they are meant to in the original language, or as they are written. Many times they just adapt their writing, eg leader -> líder, but when an actual English word happens in Spain.. good luck at recognizing it!

It took me about one hour to understand which band we were talking about. The Eagles was spelt like 'los egles'

I have a buddy in Spain called something like “jébi”. Took me a while to understand it's supposed to mean “heavy” as in “heavy metal”.

Something that helps me remember how to spell words is to memorize the pronunciation in German (which I studied a bit years ago). Not translating the word, actually pronouncing the English (or whatever) word as if it were German. So bureau would be "burr-eh-ah-oo" (probably not perfect but good enough). This would work in any language with consistent pronunciation.

I've often thought it a cruel irony that 'dyslexic' is spelled the way it is.

I learned to spell it by learning enough French to know how to spell bureau.

Then it was easy.

For me it is _guarantee_. I've tried so hard. I've practiced, tried mnemonics, but after a few weeks I'll need to spell it again, and it's gone.

Hah, the other day I spelled it correctly for the first time in my life. I was so excited I yelled and my co-workers all thought I was crazy. :)

I can only get it if I mispronounce it in my head. I think "bureau" and "cracy". I guess that's not so helpful.

Just remember how to spell bureaucrat and you'll be A-ok.

I still trip out on tongue and related brethren.

This is exactly the same for me... the hardest word to ever remember for as much as I use it.

the first time I heard him say his own name in an interview it was difficult to accept the pronunciation.

Brutal. Those were far more difficult than expected, I generally veered off path around half-way on most of them.

Very interesting experiment, my pride notwithstanding (sp?).

> I generally veered off path around half-way on most of them.

That's something misleading about this visualisation... It makes it look like you got it more wrong because you have a letter wrong early in the word, even if every letter after it is right.

I get what you're saying, but the cool path thing is unique paths not correctness of spelling.

Yes, and it’s a very cool way to show that, but they turned it into a game where you want to get the spelling right.

Play it again and try to guess the most common erroneous spelling.

Agreed, I would have loved to see it more like a detour along the correct spelling. Almost like a character based diff.

Personally I loved seeing the veering path for M. Night Shyamalan: https://imgur.com/a/Es5Q0nQ. Everybody said "There's a Y here somewhere," and veered off at a different point.

But a detour-based viz would have also looked cool: just a bunch of Y's stacked above the name, each one a different attempted insertion point.

Went through five celebrities before the first I recognized. Would be nice to see how many of us can spell e.g. Dijkstra.

The mnemonic which was pointed out to me was the "ijk" is in order.

I've probably read his name more times than the names of these celebrities.

I'd never even heard of Peekaboo Street or whatever her name is before. I got almost everyone else right, at least.

I think it's age specific. If you're in the right age group you've heard of most of them. I got most wrong because I'd never heard of them, but Picabo Street is just a little older than me and she was well known in the late 90s.

I'm almost 40, but I guess it's because I'm Greek, so I'd never heard of her.

This explains a lot of misspellings on envelopes I get through the mail, and it would be good to see this with your own name.

It must be really sad if you’re Matthew mcconaughey and two thirds of the time your name is spelled wrongly in some way.

Still, he’s doing ok

The problem is that people with the same name spell it differently, so we're just trying to recall arbitrary [often phonetic] misspellings accrued -- often by illiterate people -- over generations.

If your family immigrated somewhere there's a good chance the immigration official gave you your current family name spelling.

For me, my surname has about a dozen variations that arise, it seems, from mediaeval British spelling variants. If I tell people my name then they usually spell it according to the variant they've commonly seen, but more often than not they get it wrong.

I don't personally know any of the people in the study, but I've seen most of the names in writing before ... ScarJo just happens to have the same spelling as my friend with the same surname.

I'm not sure what any of it proves?

Also, spellcheck? That surely perverts the results.

For me, it's:

"L-A-I-N-G. Laing."

(looking once over vaguely yellow skin) "alright, Mr. Liang."

The two spellings come from entirely different cultures! Same with "Lee" (as in Robert E. and Bruce).

Know someone that was once excited to learn about the famous Chinese general that contributed to the American Civil War on hearing about General Lee for the first time, only to be quickly disappointed that it was a "Robert E." white guy.

Yeah I'm sure he finds a way to cope.

There's also a difference between randos talking about you on the Internets and serious people spelling your name. They probably don't get it wrong on his chair or trailer on set. It's probably spelled right on his checks and other documents and in most all correspondence of any value. I cannot spell half my teammates last names from memory, but I don't rely on that because it's important communication.

With enough bongos and weed you can get through anything!

(For the young 'uns out there that don't get the reference: http://www.thesmokinggun.com/documents/crime/actor-mcconaugh...)

This looks cool but I don't understand the results.

The correct path is the one highlighted in blue.

Is the most popular path the one that always follows the largest child? Or is the top-most child the most popular one? This is unambiguous on the Britney Spears example, but not on Zooey Deschanel, for example.

Also, I'd never heard of half of these people so had no idea how their name should be spelt.

I'm pretty sure it's just the width of the path that corresponds to how popular it is.

the correct path is always blue. path popularity is based on line thickness.

So how is vertical ordering decided? It's not lexical.

EDIT: I just looked again and it has changed. Perhaps the vertical ordering is random?

I don't think the vertical ordering contains information.

The most popular/well traveled route is the largest.

Has anybody else also problems with a buggy input field?

I tried writing "Palahniuk". Here I stopped typing after the h:


Yes, I also had the same issue with Chrome 72 on Android. Probably saved myself some shame though.

It seems likely that I am not the only person who can't spell Chuck Palahniuk's last name.

Edit: Now that I think about it, it might be more accurate to say that nobody can spell Chuck Palahniuk's last name...

Most people can't even pronounce it. I'm guessing the spelling is more natural if you speak Ukrainian.

In Ukrainian - yes, but not in English.

Is this one of those cases where the wage slave at Ellis Island did a craptastic job of transliterating the name and they've been stuck with it ever since?

It's a case of the Latin transliteration not having a "natural"/intuitive pronunciation in English and hence a made-up pronunciation being used.[0]

I think that the transliteration itself was "correct" (assuming that the original Ukrainian was Палагнюк).

[0] https://chuckpalahniuk.net/author/frequently-asked-questions...

It's easier to just pick a varient which works in your new language. I've changed the pronunciation of my name because they Dutch have know idea how to pronounce it. They can't spell it either, however the phonetic spelling is close enough so I just let it slide. It's not worth getting precious when your name is unique enough.

Where did the "g" (г) go, Palagniuk seems closer (or Palagnyuk may be better?).

I know a little Russian, perhaps this is different in Ukrainian?

The Ukrainian г is pronounced as something intermediate between English hard "g" and "h" (ɦ in IPA)[0][1], so it's often transliterated as h.[2]

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ukrainian_alphabet#Letter_name...

[1] https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/ɦ

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Romanization_of_Ukrainian#Tabl...

There are no such cases. Everyone in the US is free to change their name if they're unhappy with it.

It's one of the few I would have gotten first try, but they didn't include it in my test. I was still surprised how far off I was on the rest, though. Minaj was the only easy one.

Weirdly, his was the only one I got correct.

Those "Mc" vs "Mac" surnames are tough.

Fun fact: "Mac" is the original Irish surname prefix meaning "son of," and "Mc" is the Anglicized form. McDonald = Son of Donald. As is usual, Irish names are patronymic meaning they're relating to the male's lineage. A daughter would be "Nic" (daughter of the son of) and wife "Mhic" (wife of the son of).

Then why so few "Nic"s and "Mhic"s? The Anglicized form isn't so particular about gender, so females use "Mac/Mc."

The "O'" prefix as in "O'Donnell" means "descendant of," along with its female variants.


What's funny now is that in Northern Ireland (not too sure about down south) we tend to read "Mc" as probably Irish and "Mac" as Scottish.

Where is the journalism here? Where is the story? I don't see any. "People can't spell" isn't a story...

I really don't like the interface here. It is way too easy to accidentally hit the wrong button and spoil what you're doing. I had to delete my cookies for the page in order to get around the "no going back" after I accidentally hit the wrong button.

A fun dataset (how many people cannot spell using Google's text box) but a couple of points

1. I could not recognise my first picture so had to use the speech tab - which I swear sounds like Mark McGuires (with the S). So I add the extra S and of course get it "wrong".

I know I am being picky but ...

Secondly, how much of this dataset is Google being too good at correcting our spelling - I know I regularly send google bad spellings simply because my thumbs cannot be bothered to rewind on a small phone when google is 99% likely to show me what I meant anyway.

Is there a comparison between mobile spelling percentage and desktop / keyboard spelling percentages - I suspect we all spell better on a keyboard than a phone ?

This is a live dataset. All the examples except for Britney Spears are using user-submitted answers.

oh I assumed they had google data

OK so still same question applies - do we spell differently on mobiles vs keyboards - is spelling an intellectual thing or a cannot be bothered thing?

I misspell more words on a mobile device than a real keyboard. I used to use IRC over an ssh terminal and would occasionally connect using my phone when I was out of the house. The app wouldn't do autocorrect for anything typed into the terminal so my spelling was atrocious due to hitting the wrong buttons sometimes. At home using a real keyboard, I had a much easier time. I still spelled words wrong but those were words that I just don't know how to spell.

How is Bernardent Cufnersnatch not on this list?!

Well, as fun as it is to mess up benadryl cucumber's name it's very easy to spell correctly.

I'm partial to Wimbledon Tennismatch.

So far from the real thing, yet everybody gets it.

Who are these people? How am I supposed to spell random persons names if I have to google who they are to begin with?

Whatever this author has done to the input field has really screwed it up on my phone. I type "Kae" and it just ends up as "KaekaeKae", any attempts to hit backspace just duplicate the input text again and again.

Names are probably the least-interesting thing to study with respect to spelling, because they are completely arbitrary and there is so much variation even in identical-sounding names.

How many variants can you find for "Mikayla"?

Percentages would be more illustrative than absolute values, I feel. It looks like the visualisation partially accounts for relative proportion, with the width of the branches, but it's not a linear scale.

Any idea what the visualization package is here that is creating those charts?

More than likely D3.js, which is a popular library used in many web-based data visualizations.

D3.js is indeed in the page's source.

I'd love a Mac app or keyboard shortcut that simply corrected the nearest "red squiggly line" misspelled word in your current textbox.

The visualizations here are great. I really like how it represents the different branches of a tree structure

An alarmingly frequent misspelling is "Ghandi" instead of "Gandhi".

why is that alarming?

"i know there's an h in the name, but i forget where it goes..." => Ghandi seems like an extremely understandable mistake for an english speaker

0% of Starbucks cups end up with a correct spelling of "Zigurd."

The site doesn't work in Firefox or Midori.

I realize this is probably not helpful for you, but it works on my machine. FF 65.0.1 on Win10.

Thanks. I have Firefox 60.3.0esr (64-bit) in Debian jessie. So maybe it's the age, or that I block WebGL. Or maybe spoofing referrer. Or blocking local storage. Or something else about NoScript.

Funny. Works for me in Firefox mobile.

I blame English for this :D

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