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I've created a new algorithm and would like to publish it. However, I can't think of any interesting or pronounceable name for the algorithm. Is it acceptable to name the algorithm after a cartoon character?

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    For comparison, there's a protocol called Kermit — named after the Muppet, but with permission from Henson Associates (and also an unrelated backronym, presumably to avoid trademark issues). Since some entertainment companies are known to be fiercely protective and litigious, it probably pays to get permission and/or legal advice.
    – gidds
    Commented Sep 18, 2023 at 14:24
  • The case of Stooge sort, named for The Three Stooges, seems quite relevant as a comparison. Commented Sep 18, 2023 at 21:31
  • There's the famous "tortoise and hare" algorithm for finding cycles in graphs. Not quite cartoon characters, but from an Aesop fable, that should count as an example.
    – gnasher729
    Commented Sep 19, 2023 at 23:54

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There is a family of genes first identified in fruit fly mutations. Genes identified this way are named according to the phenotype in mutants, so the first gene in this family was called "hedgehog" after the appearance of these mutant flies.

A related gene and protein was somewhat jokingly named sonic hedgehog. Cute, memorable, maybe moderately funny. But it caused some controversy when it was connected to human disease. Who wants to tell people their kid is sick because they have a defective Sonic Hedgehog gene? Not really the best time for joking and hard to take seriously.

Wikipedia now says the controversy has died down, but I guess I'd just consider the consequences. Yeah, you can name things this way, but whether it sticks or not, does it help people remember your algorithm, or does it distract or create a nuisance association?

Some other related Q&A to consider:

Why the taboo against naming discoveries after yourself?

What are good principles for naming an algorithm?

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    Don't get me started on the fruitless gene (formerly fruity). Thankfully the human orthologues seem to be pretty boring.
    – Ian
    Commented Sep 18, 2023 at 13:52
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You can, but others don't have to accept or use the name. However, if there is some reason that the name represents an analogy or metaphor suggested in the name, then others might agree and use it. If that is the case, then it might be worth saying why you chose the name.

There isn't really any way to assign an "official" recognized name to such a thing. Names "stick" or they don't.


Let me add an odd example. There is some value in developing terrible algorithms, just for the educational value. Suppose you develop an educational algorithm that "always misses its mark" (whatever that might mean). Calling it the Elmer Fudd algorithm might make a bit of sense. But, twenty (or a hundred) years or so in the future the name would need explanation and the connection wouldn't be so obvious (assuming it still is, actually).

I once gave some thought to finding the least efficient sorting algorithm, not for use but just as a thought experiment, possibly shared with students. A competition in such things can also be fun.

But choosing a random, unrelated, name adds no value to what you are doing.

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    "in the future the name would need explanation and the connection wouldn't be so obvious" I think this happens all the time. E.g, What is that rectangle-ish thing used to represent the Save button? Commented Sep 18, 2023 at 14:34
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Never.

  1. It will damage the seriousness with which readers will take everything you write.
  2. Character names are private property and the owner of the name will have something to say about your use of it.
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    As somebody who was previously in a team that called an approach QUATSCH (German word for a silly thing), I disagree with your first point. If anything, a memorable name (even if slightly whimsical) helps getting taken seriously.
    – xLeitix
    Commented Sep 18, 2023 at 12:39
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    Cultural differences between different disciplines may factor in heavily for the first point. Commented Sep 18, 2023 at 12:52
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    Your #2 would also seem to imply that you can't name an algorithm after an individual.
    – Buffy
    Commented Sep 18, 2023 at 13:07
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    @Buffy A name (for a real person) is not a private property (there is not document saying that you and only you can use that name), while, say Mikey Mouse, is a name on which Disney has legal rights on. Commented Sep 18, 2023 at 13:46
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    "Mickey Mouse" specifically is a trademark, and a trademark is a name which has value only in narrow categories (e.g. comics, some merchandise, amusement parks for Mickey Mouse). Algorithms won't be among the trademarked categories for Mickey Mouse.
    – MSalters
    Commented Sep 18, 2023 at 15:03
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No. It sounds childish.

Does it need to have a name in your paper? If so, call it by a meaningful name (even if it is not an "interesting or pronounceable" name), or just call it Algorithm 1 or something like that.

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    I'm not an expert on these things, but there are definitely instances where people have given a name after a cartoon character and it stuck. One example is the Sonic Hedgehog protein. I'm assuming there are many more uses. Eventually it is name that people should rememeber. Commented Sep 18, 2023 at 11:50
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    Also, I wasn't one of the 4 downvotes. I just disagree with necessarily not naming things after childish things. Commented Sep 18, 2023 at 11:52
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    I downvoted. Science is better once people stop being so damned serious about everything.
    – xLeitix
    Commented Sep 18, 2023 at 12:40
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    I think it's also empirically wrong. A lot of important ideas and so on have cutesy names. It helps with memorability. Nobody cares about "Algorithm 1" unless it's so incredibly groundbreaking that you actually earn the name in everybody's minds. But lots of people know Bozo-sort even though it's a dumb name for a dumb algorithm. And if nobody remembers your paper / algorithm / etc. you might as well not have written it. Commented Sep 18, 2023 at 15:52
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    Thanks for your explanations. It reminds me of the professor in The Wire who says he has to go to "the little boy's room" and the police officer Colvin says "I never understood why a grown-ass man gotta talk like that." People should be able to think of memorable names for things that are not childish. Sleeping Beauty and Tinman are OK.
    – toby544
    Commented Sep 18, 2023 at 20:22

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