Haiku Robot

An Instagram site that searches for posted material that can be treated as a haiku (a 3-line poetic form with 5, 7, and 5 syllables in the lines). Recently, the robot took on sex between men (not at all graphically).

An example of a found haiku, based on a posting that went:

I suppose ant-man’s boss could be considered a micromanager

— to which the robot responded with the 5-7-5 version:

i suppose ant-man’s
boss could be considered a

Now to an example I was pointed to by Elizabeth Daingerfield Zwicky. It begins with a clip from the recent movie Love, Simon (a gay teen love story) with this exchange in it:

Jackie: Did you date me because you think I look like a guy?

Simon: No, I actually broke up with you because you don’t look like a guy.

Then a posting from theprophetchuck01:

(1) “Are you gay because you don’t have a strong male figure in your life?”
“No I’m gay because I don’t have a strong male figure in my ass.”

To which the robot responded:

no i’m gay because
i don’t have a strong male
figure in my ass

There are both phonological and semantic problems with this version. To understand the semantic problem, you should know that the line is based on a two-line joke meme that’s been widely distributed on the net:

(2) Are you gay because you don’t have a strong male figure in your life?
No, I’m gay because I want a strong male figure in my ass.

The second sentence in (2) is a play on the first, with want for have and ass for life, making a dirty joke: I don’t need a man to serve as my father, I need a man to screw me.

But the second sentence in (2) has 15 syllables; arranged as a 3-line poem, its second line is 2 syllables short. The version in (1) above attempts to remedy this by making its second line more of an echo of the first, with don’t want in both.

The phonological problem with (1). That amendment boosts the second line from 5 to 6 syllables; the standard pronunciation of don’t is as /dont/, just one syllable.

Two possibilities. First, there is a moderately common pronunciation of don’t as /doənt/, with two syllables, and that would bring the syllable count up to the prescribed 7. (I know nothing about the sociolinguistic distribution of this variant, beyond the fact that it’s not a variant I use.)

Second, maybe don’t is to be understood as standing for the uncontracted variant do not /du nat/ — again, bringing the syllable count up to the prescribed 7. If so, it should have been spelled that way in (2).

The semantic problem with (1). The problem is to make sense of the second sentence in (1):

(3) No I’m gay because I don’t / do not have a male figure in my ass.

The version in (2), with want rather than don’t have, makes complete sense, but (3) is not so clear. The verb want presupposes not have: saying I want something in my ass presupposes that I don’t have it (though that presupposition can be canceled). But saying that I don’t have something in my ass doesn’t presuppose that I want it.

However, saying that I don’t have something in my ass might conversationally implicate that I want it, by reasoning from Gricean relevance: why say that I don’t have this thing in my ass if it’s not relevant to our conversation? How could it be relevant? Well, it could be that I should have it in my ass.

Similarly, if I announce at dinner that I don’t have any vegetables on my plate, I might be implicating that I should have some (and this might then be understood as an announcement that I want some, and that in turn will probably be understood as conveying a request for some).

So (3) can work, but it’s a lot subtler than the second sentence in (2).

The movie. From Wikipedia:

Love, Simon is a 2018 American romantic comedy-drama film directed by Greg Berlanti, written by Isaac Aptaker and Elizabeth Berger, and based on the novel Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli. The film stars Nick Robinson, Josh Duhamel, and Jennifer Garner. It centers around Simon Spier, a closeted gay teenage boy in high school who is forced to balance his friends, his family, and the blackmailer threatening to out him to the entire school, while simultaneously attempting to discover the identity of the anonymous classmate whom he has fallen in love with online.

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