Association by bracketing

A recent xkcd, “Bracket” (#1529):

Tremendously funny use of bracket diagrams for sports tournaments to do free association of names: shared first names (golfer Jack Nicklaus, actor Jack Nicholson), shared last names (golfer Arnold Palmer, musician Amanda Palmer), last shared with first (actor Tom Arnold, golfer Arnold Palmer), etc., often with other shared bits of form (like the /nɪk/ of Nicklaus and Nicholson). And more complex associations, like actor Rip Torn and singer-songwriter Natalie Imbruglia (and her song “Torn”).

Most of the associations run through long chains: Danny Glover to Donald Glover (last names, plus the D), Donald Glover to Donnie Wahlberg (first names, full and nick-), Donnie Wahlberg to Mark Wahlberg (last names — in fact they are brothers), Mark Wahlberg to Mark Ruffalo to Mark Shuttleworth (first names).

You could spend a day enjoying the trip through the diagram.

3 Responses to “Association by bracketing”

  1. Ben Zimmer Says:

    Natalie Imbruglia had a big hit in the ’90s with the song “Torn.” That would be quite something if her name also meant “torn,” but I don’t think that’s the case.

    • arnold zwicky Says:

      Yes; I misunderstood a page I found. Haven’t found the etymology of Imbruglia, but the association is clearly to the song. I’ve fixed this in the posting.

  2. Ben Zimmer Says:

    And check out explain xkcd for more on the bracket entries.

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