Facebook patents system to identify new slang terms before they're cool

In an attempt not to become like our parents, Facebook has received a new patent that will help it avoid asking, "Is that what the kids call it?"

Algorithm would allow search for neologisms and store them in a glossary

Facebook's algorithm would allow it to scour their social network for neologisms, or new expressions that are used within distinct communities, but are not necessarily popular. (Paul Sakuma/Justin Tallis/Associated Press)

Facebook has received a new patent that will help it avoid having to ask, "Is that what the kids call it?"

Granted in February, the patent is for a program that would essentially help Facebook search for new slang terms and then store them in a glossary.

The proposed algorithm would allow the company to scour its social network for neologisms, or new expressions that are used within distinct communities, but are not necessarily popular.

Consider phrases like "humble bragging," which describes an attempt to appear modest but is actually boasting, or "rage quitting," which means to end an activity because of great frustration. 

Both of these are examples of internet neologisms listed by JSTOR that follow a similar pattern — in this case adding an emotional modifier to verbs. 

If Facebook implements the program, it would never have to ask what "ugly crying" is, because its system would spot the neologism and cross-reference it with existing terms. 

In the patent, the company states it's trying to identify "slang, terms of art, portmanteaus, syllabic abbreviations, abbreviations, acronyms, names, nicknames, repurposed words or phrases, or any other type of coined word or phrase."

(Facebook/U.S. Patent Office)

The patent mentions "Rickrolling" as a phenomenon it could quickly pick up on. Rickrolling is a now dated internet trend of pretending to link to an item of interest, but instead linking to a video of Never Going to Give You Up by Rick Astley. 

If the program discovers that the phrase in question hasn't been used in that context before, it'll be added to a slang dictionary. Once that phrase stops being used, however, the system will delete it from the database. 

That way, it could pick up on expressions like "Netflix and chill" (meaning sex) while dropping "information superhighway" (the internet) as language evolves. 

Facebook doesn't say exactly what it would use its database for, though it does give a few suggestions. 

"Information related to one or more textual terms in the glossary is provided to enhance auto-correction, provide predictive test input suggestions, or augment social graph data," the company wrote in the patent's abstract regarding potential uses.

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