Man, just when I think it can't possibly get any busier in my life, well, it does. So I just haven't had much time left over to do programming, and that makes me sad. But when this happens, eventually the Muse forces me to code something. This week, besides getting back to the modbot forum despammer (on which topic I will write later), suddenly last night I found myself writing a Perl script to generate fantasy country names based on a program written in some antediluvian BASIC dialect in the 70's by Jo Walton.
Once I'd written it, I realized it would be cooler if it were online -- because everything is. And so I wrote a little Tcl wrapper based on my Google count wrapper, and slapped it up. And played with it a lot.
So now I have a lot more ideas, of course. I wrote it to generate a random number of syllables up to a maximum, then gave it syllable forms like "cvv", "vv" (for consonant-vowel combinations). The vowels and consonants are likewise simple lists. You can put accents on the vowels, optionally. You can specify prefixes or suffixes. You can make letter choices for the consonants according to some scheme Jo dreamed up.
But really what this is -- or could be -- is a generic generative grammar at the phonological level. So I could well imagine making it more general, by providing a nested and arbitrary hierarchy of phonemes (liquids, fricatives, front and back) and providing more complicated options for rules.
And on the wrapper end, wouldn't it be nice to be able to save a language spec, bookmark it, name it, commment on it, mail it to your friends, etc? How about an "evolutionary strategy" to search for types of words you like the best? Heck, there's all kinds of stuff that could be done.
But this was fun. And from the traffic it's getting, I'm not the only one who finds it hypnotic.