Ask Jeeves, the supposed king of natural language search technology,
is actually more like a guide to help answer categories of questions which
are most frequently asked by Internet surfers. We've always thought that it would
be neat to put together a miniature version of Ask Jeeves, giving definitive
answers to commonly asked questions. In researching this idea, we had to know
how to find out what is commonly asked, however. No problem: we're always hearing
about the wonders of GoTo's Search Suggestion Tool, which tells roughly how many
searches were performed on various terms in the past month. We tried this: to
bring up questions as opposed to standard keyword searches, we searched the GoTo
Search Suggestion Tool using the truncated phrase "what does." Sure enough, a
long list of questions beginning with the words "what does" - with the number
of people who supposedly typed them into the GoTo engine in the previous
month - came up.
A lot of the questions appear to be from little munchkins who are
getting up to no good. We figured, why not save the pesky little ragamuffins some
time, and actually answer their questions. After all, if they
try to Ask Jeeves, they'll likely wind up on some long-winded general-interest
site; and if they actually click on the links GoTo brings up in response to these
questions, the poor little saps will wind up buying discount phone cards, but
will definitely not learn anything.
Be warned that the questions people are asking are mostly inane,
and our responses may be mildly crude and not suitable for toddlers. So if you're
a toddler, or easily offended, please don't read this.
And now we give you: Ask Dweebs, a new "natural language (very
natural language) all-in-one answer engine."
20 Questions with Ask Dweebs
So here's how it works. We generated a list of commonly-asked questions
(based on figures from October, 2000... yes, we've been sitting on this powderkeg
for quite some time) by using the GoTo search suggestion tool. This tool notes
the frequency of searches on a given key phrase in the previous month. We decided
why not save everyone time and just answer all the questions in one place? The
following, then, are real questions asked by real Internet surfers, with the frequency
of searches in October 2000 given in parentheses... followed by our insightful
responses. Please note that Ask Dweebs has no affiliation with GoTo or Ask Jeeves.
While our answers may be satirical, the questions are all too real.
1. What does my name mean? (19537 searches)
If you are the one person out of these 19537 whose name is Pierre
DuRocher, your name means "Stone of the Medium-Sized Rock."
2. What does it mean to be patriotic? (1925 searches)
(Cue inspiring music:) being patriotic means ... it means ... damn,
this is hard without Andy Richter.
3. What does my last name mean? (1632)
You again? It means don't stretch the truth and tell folks it means
"big fricking boulder." Cuz they won't like that.
4. What does a vagina look like? (1289)
The most recent fad on late night TV seems to be to compare
a vagina to a taco. Perhaps a bid to sell more tacos. Various hilarious synonyms
for vagina, such as "bearded clam," and "whisker biscuit," should give you an
idea (as if this were an actual serious question).
5. What does a penis look like? (977)
First of all, let's apply some logic here. If you are male, you
will not need to ask this because you need simply look at your own pee-pee to
ascertain more or less what "a" penis looks like. Yours, at least.
Thus you are probably female. If you want to find out what a penis
looks like, you might consider watching public television. They show documentaries
like the recent one we saw about nudist camps, places where people of all
sexes, ages, and skin types jiggle around displaying whatever genitalia God gave
The male penchant for exaggeration is nicely summed up in the various
synonyms for penis, such as schlong, purple-headed monster, etc. Rest assured
that when the time comes and you do indeed see what a penis actually looks like,
your urge to look away will be a totally natural, human instinct.
All in all, it makes a strong case that men need to be good at
something, be it kissing, singing, making money, or lying, because that thing
ain't very pretty.
To put it more succinctly, "it's how you use it."
6. What does URL stand for? (945)
Uniform Resource Locator. If you've been reading from the top,
you are probably surprised to discover that we actually intend to make some of
these answers useful to people!
7. What does Halloween mean? (727)
It's a contraction of a medieval English name, All Hallows Eve,
which means roughly "Daddy Loves His Dental Plan."
8. What does jovial mean? (671)
Jolly. And now we have a question for you. Why did 671 people
ask this in one month?
9. What does URL mean? (671)
Uniform Resource Locator. (Does this make you feel the slightest
bit more knowledgeable? We thought not. In fact what does it matter? If you're
asking this, it's too late for you anyway. Take up television.)
10. What does HTTP stand for? (635)
HyperText Transfer Protocol. That's to distinguish something-or-other
from FTP (File Transfer Protocol) and other ways of exchanging Internet data.
Again, finding out what the thing stands for does next to nothing to advance your
cause, which is to understand how the Internet works. You should drop this cause
now - AT&T and Cisco don't understand it, so what hope do you have?
- and realize that the http is the part before the www which is just before
the name of the web site you actually want, which most of the time is followed
by .com and then a directory name and/or file name. URL's (the http: plus the
stuff after the http) nowadays can be quite long because of ecommerce and cookies
and other scary stuff that keeps track of your every move. Log off now if this
bothers you, and please don't come back.
11. What does fuck mean? (580)
O.K., little Billy, you can play on the computer, just remember,
it's time to come in when the street lights go on!
12. What does HTML stand for? (573)
HyperText Markup Language. It's a subset of SGML or Standard Generalized
Markup Language. You see, publishers, printers, and like professions have
always used markup languages which had codes to indicate the proper typesetting
and such. HTML was just a new one that was invented so that most any computer
could display a document in a common format even if there were wide variations
in display capability. The idea was really for academics sharing papers and such.
You'd be able to delineate paragraphs, headings of different sizes, emphasis like
strong (which might bold or italicize your type depending on the end user's display),
etc. We've come a long way from this, but pages are still generally written in
As it turned out, SGML wasn't suitable or general enough for the
new information age brought on by the development of the Internet. Thus XML, a
more open-ended standard allowing for the creation of vast numbers of specialized
sub-languages (HTML being one of them), was born. XML stands for eXtensible Markup
Language. In other words, it's hyper-cool.
13. What does my phone number spell? (553)
If this is Pierre duRocher again, we are happy to report that your
number spells JOB-KREJ, or if you want to try again it also spells LNA-JQFK. The
first one has a real word in it, but the second gives you "JFK" (totally cool)
in the last four digits, with a leftover "Q" which can always be used for something,
as long as you can find a "U" somewhere. Might we suggest you go looking in the
phone book. Then you can always play in the traffic, and we hear there is a parade
happening on Main Street right now, so you'd better hustle down there.
14. What does RSVP mean? (543)
"Répondez, s'il vous plaît," or "respond, if it pleases you." However
don't be fooled by this politeness. The fancy folks who sent you the invite really
mean: "Is your arm broken? Call the number and tell us your plans now!"
15. What does NASA stand for? (509)
National Aeronautics and Space Administration. It's a neat little
high tech company that has designed the majority of the components of gizmos
and gadgets you see advertised in low-budget infomercials. If you want to marvel
at the space age coating on the George Foreman grill, go ga-ga over the resiliency
of the Mike Tyson Anger Management Squeezing Ball, or enthuse about
the unbelievable heat-shielding properties of the Giga Shine Car Polish 3000,
direct your kudos to the fine scientists at NASA. Now if we could only
figure out how to deploy this kind of technology in spaceships... then we'd really
16. What does GOP stand for? (483)
Grand old party. Please don't ask us about the elephant, or what
the "Party Whip" is used for. And whatever you do, don't use terms like "popular
vote" or "dumb as a lamppost" around anyone wearing a GOP button.
17. What does LOL stand for? (479)
Laughing out Loud. It's an online chat abbreviation. Others include
BWDIK (but what do I know), ROFLMAO (rolling on the floor laughing my ass off),
and A/S/L? (age, sex, location?). No one in internet history has ever
been literally laughing out loud when they type "LOL," and only three reports
have been received of dislocated asses incurred while laughing into a computer
18. What does BMW stand for? (435)
"Bayrische Motorenwerke," German for "Bavarian Motor Factory."
I think we had altogether too much prosperity in the 1990's. What in the 1980's
was widely derided as a sign of yuppie pretentiousness is now seen by most
everyone as simply a "well engineered car." I'm just hoping that when I buy my
first luxury car, a really big Mercedes, the Daimler Chrysler factory
won't put a PT Cruiser engine in there by mistake.
19. What does sex feel like? (427)
it's like a black fly in your chardonnay
it's a free ride, when you've already paid
it's like rain on your wedding day
it's like... oh, wait, that's irony.
it's a lot better than reading this.
this is so far from feeling like sex, it's painful.
in fact this isn't even good irony
now isn't that ironic?
how about the fact that whoever bids on this key phrase
will pay $.05 for the privilege of being able to answer your question
any damn way they please?
is that like cutting off your nose to spite your face? is that
ironic? perverted? or just stupid?
20. What does DNA stand for? (422)
Phonetically speaking, it goes like this:
The building blocks of life, shaped in long strands, passing
on genetic traits to the next generation.
Which is why the song Sheer Heart Attack by Queen was somewhat
cool, because no one was talking very much about DNA way back in the 70's.
"hey hey hey hey
it was the dna
hey hey hey hey
that made me this way
doyouknowdoyouknowdoyouknowdoyouknow just how I feel... doyouknowdoyouknowdoyouknowdoyouknow
just how i feeeeeeeeeeeel
sheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee-ee-eee-eeeeeer heart attack
i feeeel so
ina - ina - ina - ina - inarticu-late!!!"
Well, that was Queen for you.
John Molson is an author and humorist who lives in Exeter, Ontario - "Home
of the White Squirrel." If you liked this story, and have a web site, pay
John the ultimate honor and link
to this page.