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
Fenwall St Eastake
St Ninhope
Thawkanham Water Green
Mige Lane
Up Maling
Firley Dinch
Stan Hill
Shenworth Strough
Hendrelds Hill
Stranal Footh

And here’s another 980.

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