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vocabulary for various faces

create a vocabulary for describing faces
  [vote for,

We know what our friends look like, but describing them over the phone, is usually limited to the most general aspects: gender, hair color, eye color, height, build.

If we had to describe someone based only on what their face looks like, we are somewhat limited.

I propose that linguists and those who study faces (the computer scientists working on face recognition and eigenfaces, facial reconstruction surgeons, artists and some law enforcement and maybe others) collaborate and construct a rich, organic (organic meaning natural and not stilted or artificial sounding) vocabulary for describing facial features.

It should fold as much existing vocabulary into the scheme.

It should be robust enough that, over the phone, you could describe someone with a few words and that person could then be easily to pick out of a crowd.

Once it was developed, it could be added to the curriculum for elementary school teachers and then taught at the elementary school level. It is only useful if lots of people know how to use it.

As for the reasons, I think the primary reason is simply to enrich the language, to fascilitate communication, but it could also be useful for law enforcement.

talldave, Jul 05 2003

Related: Beautycheck http://www.uni-rege...k/english/index.htm
06 July 03 | An ill-named site with info about a research project on 'facial attractiveness' that has been carried out at the universities of Regensburg and Rostock. [bristolz, Oct 04 2004, last modified Oct 21 2004]

Related: "Isn't She Lovely" http://www.discover..._00/featbeauty.html
06 July 03 | Research on the attributes of feminine facial attractiveness from the biopsychology dept. at New Mexico State University [bristolz, Oct 04 2004, last modified Oct 21 2004]

Aquiline, sallow features http://www.literatu...-02/chapter-16.html
No one describes a face better than Dickens [kevindimie, Oct 04 2004, last modified Oct 21 2004]

Hearing Colors, Tasting Shapes http://www.sciam.co...8F-8EA5809EC5880000
A Scientific American article about synesthesia [talldave, Oct 04 2004]


       "describing them over the phone" - that's a little 1990's, isn't it?   

       Just do what everybody else does, and say that they look like a certain movie star or the guy down the chippie.
DrCurry, Jul 05 2003

       <wonders if forensic artists already use a special vocabulary>
bristolz, Jul 05 2003

       Jutta, that's a great observation.   

       Language has a unique power to give form to what was previously indistinct.
talldave, Jul 05 2003

       I have my own "epithets" for describing people, but unfortunately, I can only describe people in terms of other people that (only) I know. For example, I have an aunt named Rae. There are people at my bridge club who, I don't know their names, but I refer to them as "silver-haired Rae" or "fat, green shirted Rae".   

       Now, this gives me an idea. We must pick "standard faces", named, say, Albiarta, Benezer, Charbiante, Debonaire, Eberstein, Fioldstar, etc. These 26 or so faces should span an evenly spaced cross-section of society. These faces should be placed wrapping around the walls of every classroom, just like how they have the alphabet on the wall in kindergarten.   

       Then you could describe a friend by saying she has Albiarta's roundness but Charbiante's hair.
phundug, Jul 05 2003

       Phun, your idea reminds me of wall menus of haircut sketches posted in some barber shops. During a great 50-cent trim & shave in Bolivia a few years back, I noticed a canonical 'Beatle' option still posted on the wall.
n-pearson, Jul 06 2003

       Somewhat halfbaked in William Gibson's "Virtual Light", where the cops have a computer program to describe suspects in terms of which movie stars or other celebrities they resemble. Gibson then describes how several of the main characters were rated-- which seemed to me like a rather transparent attempt to dictate the casting of a potential movie version of the book...
hob, Jul 06 2003

       This idea is completely baked, but has been allowed to go stale. Read Victorian novels, and you will see people described as having "aquiline" features, or "Roman," or as being of "sallow complexion," etc. There already is an entire vocabulary for this, we just don't use it anymore. I wonder why.
kevindimie, Jul 06 2003

       I think it is the jargon file that defines a "millihelen" as being that unit of beauty sufficient to launch one ship.
bristolz, Jul 06 2003

       Well put, kevindimie.
thumbwax, Jul 06 2003

       [reensure], I don't know what that means. It sounds Lewis Carroll-esc....
talldave, Jul 06 2003

       Or an exultation of larks or a leash of greyhounds.
bristolz, Jul 06 2003

       Two from my home town, neither very complimentory:   

       Nowty = Bad tempered, miserable, grumpy for no reason face
Marred or Marred-arsed = pathetic, wet and drippy looking.

       Can also be used to describe temperament.
squeak, Jul 07 2003

       An ideal scheme would be concise, have pairs of opposites and be based on variations from a (perhaps arbitrary) average. The pairs should be fairly orthogonal (meaning little overlap) and be based on, if possible, a perceptual or genetic basis.   

       By perceptual basis (a term I might have just made up) I mean a set of basic stimuli that can be combined to form a more complicated stimulus, like primary colors are for color perception.   

       My reason for thinking that other perceptions have something similar is inspired by an article I read in Scientific American about synesthesia. People with synethesia (depending on how things work out)sometimes hear colors or taste shapes, not unlike the experience of those under the influence of LSD. The secondary stimuli seems to suggest a simple basis for other perceptions.   

       By genetic basis I mean that if the shapes of faces are influenced by a small set of genetic variations, then those variations would provide a natural scheme to base a vocabulary on.   

       If both worked and there was any degree of coincidence (a whole lot of "if"'s) this would be the ideal scheme.
talldave, Jul 07 2003

       [shift] I humbly recommend you read the Scientific American article I put a link to. I think it's just cool in general, but it talks about how the science was established for something so subjective.   

       It also mentions something that I imagine could be woven into this (perhaps hairbrained) scheme of mine. There is a sidebar about a possible link to the origin of language. Certain shapes seem to have a natural association with sounds that crosses cultural lines. Look at the "bouba", "kiki" example. It's very interesting.   

       You do make a good point, though. The marriage of the math side of things (including science and engineering) with the art side of things can spawn some unholy monsters. 12 tone music comes to mind. So does the "measuring the greatness of a poem" scheme in the beginning of The Dead Poet Society.   

       Despite these misguided attempts, there are positive results, just off the top of my head: architecture, perspective geometry and written music are three great examples of a well conceived union of these two areas. I'm sure there are more.
talldave, Jul 07 2003

       Neat idea. Good name.   

       I'd like to hear colors & taste shapes. Seriously. IF it could be turned on and off at will, etc . Too bad the people with it probably can't, etc. - which is why it is probably classified as a disease not a gift.
thecat, Jul 11 2003

       Reading the article I would suggest this to researchers -- the way to test whether the mix is personal or impersonal is to see independently if many people with synesthesia describe the mix of the same things the same.   

       Example 1. Does the hamburger SMELL "bitter" to one person not others. Also can each item be all 5 senses. So, therefore: Example 2. Someone who finds the hamburger SOUNDS like Brahms isn't necessarily disagreeing with the "hamburger SMELLS bitter" person. Retest by asking each to describe the other sense and compare.   

       I would hope the answer to this is that this is a nature/nurture hybrid. Less quantifiable but more interesting and recreatable if it is predominantly positive not negative. What do the hb science types say?
thecat, Jul 11 2003

       // Just do what everybody else does, and say that they look like a certain movie star or the guy down the chippie. //   

       Everybody else says "the guy down the chippie"? I don't even know what that means.
waugsqueke, Jul 11 2003

       //the guy from the chippie// that man who works at the fish and chip (takeaway) shop,
po, Jul 12 2003

       [thecat] from reading the article it looks as though different people made different associations. This was the first thing researchers looked at and why the study of this languished for a while.
talldave, Jul 21 2003

       This is an interesting discussion. I think the original idea is a WIBNI, though. [talldave] wants this thing to exist, but doesn't know how to make it.
snarfyguy, Jul 21 2003

       Churn churn churn...   

       But we don't know that we all see the same colours anyway. We are just brought up to believe that colour X is red and Y is yellow, although each person could have a different X and Y.   

       As for the idea, I think that the vocabulary already exists, although it is not in much common usage.
dbmag9, Jan 20 2006


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