Noun Clusters

(Last Update: 08:00 PDT 18 April 2017 )

This is a list I've been collecting of awkward or amusing noun clusters (long noun phrases consisting primarily of nouns modifying other nouns). These are also sometimes called "noun stacks", "noun strings", or "noun compounds". If you have any good ones (from real writing), please send them to me at karplus@soe.ucsc.edu . Thanks!

The title for a senior project:
Home Assistance Help Alert System Design Specification

From a student design report:
the passive-high-pass-filtered second-stage-amplifier output signal range
There are only 5 nouns there, but several adjectives as well. I had to add some hyphens to group some of the noun-phrase modifiers correctly.

John Calligy sent me the following headline (from an AOL news feed):
Volunteers help 18-year-old rescue pooch tackle bucket list
As he points out "Every single one of those eight words could be a noun, and at least five could be verbs."

One of the UCSC Registrar's projects:
Program Statement Content Management Project

From a senior thesis:
Characterization of induceable hematopoeitic stem cell death by diptheria toxin mous lines

From a Cogito e-mail newsleter:
Radiation Belt Storm Probes Mission

From a senior thesis: gene subset similarity scoring tool

Provided by Inna Gerasymenko:
There are many noun clusters among the names of state authorities:

From my son's school calendar: "Common College Application Completion Workshop".

From a PhD thesis proposal: "A high-efficiency multiple voltage retinal prosthesis research platform."

Provided by Jonathan Caspian: Here's one from aviation-related technical writing, courtesy of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA): communications navigation surveillance/air traffic management, or CNS/ATM. It's the new, integrated method of knowing where you are in the sky.

FAA is full of noun clusters without punctuation, most further converted into acronyms, and sometimes into nested acronyms. Check out the International GNSS Service (IGS), formerly the International GPS Service, using both Global Positioning System (GPS) and Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) as the nested "G".

In Fall 2004, there was an invitation sent to the grad students of the School of Engineering at UCSC to attend a "Science Studies Research Cluster". The invitation did not make it clear how the nouns were to be parsed. I queried the inviter and got an explanation of what "Science Studies" are: "an interdisciplinary examination of Science and Scientific Practices." Further clarification: " The main purpose would be an epistemological examination of the processes of knowledge production endemic to modern day science." She did not explain what a "Research Cluster" is, but I'm not sure I care.

In 2001, I found myself writing some "soda bottle rocket launcher plans".

Not only does the "United States Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration" have a big noun cluster for its name, it sponsors the "Childhood Injury Prevention Week" on "The Center for Mental Health Services Knowledge Exchange Network".

From a "Notice to City of Santa Cruz Residents": Sewer Infiltration Reduction Project

From spam: "Spiral Inductor Analysis and Design Tool"

From Dan Scripture: "nineteen-year-old architecture student Maya Lin's Yale class assignment" [the Vietnam Veterans Memorial]

An uninformative title for an outline assignment: Computer Design Project Documentation Outline

Here are some "good" noun stacks I found in final papers:

From a paper turned in for my typesetting class: rigid disc drive product line

From a tech report: static RAM control input voltage level tester

From project proposals, 1998:

From a final paper, spring 1998: two operation channel transmission scheme

From a draft PhD thesis: Surf design rule enforcement strategy

Made up, but plausible: toilet paper roll holder attachment bracket mounting screw

From an e-mail subject line: Acer telnet hang sysdump crash analysis help

Not really a noun cluster, but a highly modified noun phrase from a final exam: 64KByte (2^16) virtually-addressed direct-mapped, unified, write-back cache.

A title from the assignment to write a consultant's report: Zip Code Sorting Speed Remedy: Algorithm Replacement.

From http://www.broadcatch.com/cdml.htm, comes this lovely title: The Cooperative Distributed Meta-Librarian Protocol, which is two adjectives, a prefix, and two nouns. Not very complicated syntactically, but a bit hard to assign a meaning to.

From the University adminstration, wanting faculty to comment on a proposed new information system about students---a brochure titled Requirements Definition Process Faculty Liaison Plan

In the "Benefits Update" UCSC update #00-11-01: 2001 benefit plan change overview.

From a student paper, Winter 2003: computing time growth rate comparison.

From a student paper, Winter 2003: merge sort algorithm approach.

From a student paper, Winter 2003: espresso command prompt logic collapser. (What is meant is the "espresso program for logic minimization".) Later in the same sentence was mustang command prompt state-machine encoder.

From a title in a journal article: mouse stem cell gene expression kinetics.

Examples (reproduced without permission) from the text Reporting Technical Information by Kenneth Houp, Thomas Pearsall, Elizabeth Tebeaux, and Sam Dragga:

Examples (reproduced without permission) from the text Technical Writing and Professional Communication for Nonnative Speakers of English by Thomas Huckin and Leslie Olsen (still my favorite tech-writing text):

[an error occurred while processing this directive]