We Had ChatGPT Coin Nonsense Phrases—And Then We Defined Them

chatgpt made up words; green text and background

by Nick Norlen, Senior Editor

Like everyone else, we’ve been playing with ChatGPT, the program that uses AI to generate text modeled on a vast database of existing writings. But instead of prompting it to produce a natural-sounding passage, we wanted to find out: can it compile unnatural-sounding phrases—ones that don’t exist in any known piece of published writing?

The base prompt was simple: “Compose word pairs that do not exist anywhere on the internet or in any corpus or text database.” We ran several variations, adding additional instructions to tweak the output.

The results were as weird as you would expect, but here’s the thing about the English language: it’s so packed with the potential for figurative senses that it is actually quite easy to overlay meaning onto what are otherwise nonsense word mashups. So we did. We selected the 10 phrases below as our favorites and then made up a definition for each one.

Disclaimer: The dataset that ChatGPT relies on is huge, but it doesn’t contain every last piece of writing that has ever been put on a page, so there’s a good chance at least a few of these phrases have been intentionally strung together at some point in history.

In fact, we did have to filter out some false positives (phrases already in existence) from the results, including wonderful terms like carrot chisel (from an explanation of how a snowman breaks out of a snowglobe), silken geyser (used in a novel by Mike Lemonte and also by a fanfiction author known as “Slightly Askew”), and plasmatic spree (which we were going to define as “an informal term for a blood drive” before discovering that it is the exquisitely fitting title of a painting by artist Cristi Rinklin). Which is all a good reminder that the text spit out by ChatGPT and similar programs isn’t generated from scratch—it’s standing on the shoulders of a million writers.

Here are the 10 until-now-nonexistent phrases we selected and the definitions we made up for them. No, we’re not adding these to the dictionary—yet (we fully expect notebook nachos to catch on).

whisker strangler

A slang term for an elastic band used to cinch a long beard into a ponytail.

Example: Hey babe, can you stop stealing my hair ties to use as whisker stranglers?

chuff wink

British slang for a punch in the face. (The word chuff is another name for what’s also called a churl—a rude, boorish, or surly person.)

Example: That place is filled with the kind of toughs who’ll give you a chuff wink just for breathing wrong, mate.

camouflage thunder

An inverse form of the type of flatulence known as silent-but-deadly. Also known as loud-but-nonlethal.

Example: Dave: Yikes, warn me next time. Patti: Don’t worry, it’s just camouflage thunder.

Whisper Dazzle

The name of an ASMR YouTube channel.

broccoli vacuum

A slang term for a vegan. Originally disparaging but now often used as a reclaimed term.

Example: I’m a broccoli vacuum, bro—I’ll raw broc that whole veggie tray straight up, no cashew dip needed. 

jot berry

An informal term for a superfluous diacritic mark, such as a second dot over the letter i or an errant umlaut. (Thought to be modeled on dingleberry.)

Velvet Thunderstorm

The title of the next Harry Styles album.

notebook nachos

A snack snuck during class, especially a large one hidden behind a textbook or notebook.

Example: You know you’re a broccoli vacuum when your go-to for notebook nachos is crudités.

jellybean tailor

A slang term for a listless idler. (This nonsense insult is mainly used by grandmothers to shame people into applying themselves.)

Example: You better start studying or you’ll grow up to be a jellybean tailor like your Great Uncle Ralph! 

Pigeon Saltwater

The name of a microbrew made in Portland (with actual saltwater).

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