Generating English village names with neural networks

Roll 13/02

I’m trying to wrap my head around the new generation machine learning tools: deep neural networks and the like. It feels like this technology is approaching where databases were 20-30 years ago: the tooling is getting easy enough that an idiot like me can have a stab at wiring something up, even if I don’t quite understand all the magic incantations that I need to type. And it’s pretty clear it’s going to be important.

The world seems to be settling on Tensorflow, for now, so I had a go at getting something stupid up and running. I ended up making an English village name generator, using a corpus from OS Open Names (with a healthy amount of awk and grep), and a character level recurrent neural network written in Tensorflow.

Like I was with SQL many moons ago, I think I understand some of the principles, what’s possible and what’s not, and I can make sense of someone else’s code – but it’s a bit of struggle getting all the words in the right order when I have to change anything.

Anyway, the results are quite fun – here’s 20 of them:

Allers Bottom
Culack
Swrarby
Fenwall St Eastake
Anbarth
St Ninhope
Thawkanham Water Green
Mige Lane
Up Maling
Firley Dinch
Lindlemere
Stan Hill
Hiddlesley
Pibley
Hunmastreet
Shenworth Strough
Hendrelds Hill
Scottedane
Crickines
Stranal Footh

And here’s another 980.

Update: I turned this into a Twitter bot, @urnowentering.