When neural nets try to name things, the results can be indisputably weird. Every once in a while, I come across an arena where the human-invented names are every bit as strange as those a neural net can come up with. Often, scientists are to blame. Species of bird, snake, insect, and oh my god fish have names that could have come straight from the neurons of a glitchy neural net. Mushrooms, it turns out, are another.

Emily Davis (who helped me collect names for the bird project earlier) suggested I try common names of fungi. There are some fantastic examples of these (Golden Navel, Powdery Piggyback, and Drumstick Truffleclub are all real), but there were too few to train a neural net with. But that was back in the misty dim past of April 2018. Now, in Sept 2019, I have the option of using a pretrained neural net like GPT-2, which is better able to generalize from smaller datasets because it can draw connections and associations from vast amounts of internet text it saw during training. I used talktotransformer.com to prompt the 345-M version of GPT-2 with 28 existing species of fungi.

Its mushrooms were weird in a plausible kind of way, and some of them even sounded like they might be edible.

Cookie Parlor
Orangeberry Paddle Cake
Aberrant Pudding
Peach Squeeze
Champion’s Moustache
Stoner’s Swanky Stuff
Honey-Stunned Furbolg
Bowl of Lucky Lard
Powdery Snuggly Mushroom

While these mushrooms are almost certainly poisonous.

Bloodstained Cauldron
Crust of the Dead
Frozen Skull Vase
Wicked Trousers
The Unspeakable
Trapster’s Spooky Head
Bloody Sock Puff
Wet Rot and Bleeding
Shade of the Tarantula
Cauldron of Spicy Death
Lava Bubble
Wizard Flange
Sapient Ink

I’m not sure what the effects of consuming these mushrooms would be. Approach with caution.

Sticky Toms
Naughty Spiky Tusk
Raspberry Fartrover
Bartram’s Big Got To Grab You
Smiley Facecap
Raging Snot
Blubber Gingham
Spherical Sockbox
Spooky Piglet
Puny Bubble
Fluffy Trousers
Grizzly-Faced Duckytoot

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