The Spoonbill Generator presents
The N+7 Machine
The N+7 procedure, invented in 1961 by Jean Lescure of Oulipo, involves replacing each noun in a text with the seventh one following it in a dictionary. (In French, it is referred to as the 'S+7' procedure.)
On this page you can enter an English text and 15 alternative texts will be generated, from N+1, which replaces each noun with the next one in the dictionary, to N+15, which takes the 15th noun following. The sample page of proverbs will quickly give you an idea of the effect.
There's probably a limit to how large a text you can paste in, but in any case a few paragraphs will probably provide sufficient entertainment.
- A Selection of English Proverbs
- The Bible
- William Shakespeare
- The Book of Common Prayer
- Christopher Smart, "My Cat Jeoffry" (from Jubilate Agno)
- US Declaration of Independence
- William Blake, "The Tyger"
- Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice
- Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities
- Gerard Manley Hopkins, "Pied Beauty"
- Virginia Woolf, The Waves
- T.S.Eliot, "Burnt Norton"
- Winston Churchill"We shall fight on the beaches"
- Universal Declaration of Human Rights
- Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita
- Ted Hughes, "Pike"
- Bob Dylan, "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall"
- Peter Cook, "Entirely a Matter for You"
- Oliver Sacks, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat
- William Gibson, Neuromancer
- Andrew Radford, et al., Linguistics. An Introduction
- The Hairy Bikers, "Recipe: Roast chicken and..."
With thanks to Roland Clare and David Briggs.
- The N+7 Machine is not very clever — although it has some basic rules about plurals, there are quite a few plurals it cannot identify. It works by basic word substitution — it has no syntactical or other grammatical knowledge.
- The large dictionary used for this procedure still needs tidying up, as it contains a few words that are not nouns and seems to have a few quite common nouns missing. Also it includes many nouns that are more common as verbs (e.g. rise, abandon, and present participles such as swimming), so some verbs will be replaced as well, and the resulting texts may be less syntactically correct than if the small dictionary is used. You can prevent a word being treated as a noun by prefixing it with
- The small dictionary, obviously, will overlook quite a few nouns in a text, particularly if they are relatively uncommon. But this dictionary will less often make substitutions for other parts of speech than the large dictionary. This dictionary will probably give better results for texts with more limited vocabulary. Also, it will more often substitute words that are semantically remote from the nouns in the original, as it contains many fewer compounds for core vocabulary like eye and sun.
- At present, neither dictionary is circular. In principle, with enough iterations, all nouns would be replaced with zone (small dictionary) or zoom (large dictionary).
- The dictionaries use British English spelling, so US forms like "color" and "favor" will not be recognized as nouns. It may be possible to fix this in due course.
- The site doesn't keep any record of the submitted or generated texts. If you find a text that gives particularly good results, please feel free to mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- More on the N+7 procedure will be found in the Oulipo Compendium, and the other items listed below.
About the N+7 / S+7 Method
- Jean Lescure S+7 (1961), in French,
- Jean Lescure, The N+7 Method
(An Individual Case of the W±n Method) (1973), from Ian Monk & Daniel Levin Becker (eds), All That is Evident is Suspect.
- Natalie Berkman, Digital Oulipo: Programming Potential Literature, Digial Humanities, Vol. 11, No. 3, 2017.
- Jacques Jouet, Un peu d'histoire littéraire à la lumière de la Méthode S + 7, SubStance, Vol. 17, No. 3, Issue 57 (1988), pp. 22-25.
- jouez avec L'ouLipo, Le S+7 (substantif + 7) (archived, 2009).
- Daniel May, Poems Structured by Mathematics, in Sriraman, B. Handbook of the Mathematics of the Arts and Sciences, Springer, 2021.
- William Sethares, Oulipo: Wordshift + 7, Wolfram Demonstrations Project.