Two X One Y

I found out yesterday that the title of the above paper (on arXiv here) has been causing a bit of a scandal in the astrophysics community.

When I saw the title I was baffled as to why it could cause offence. Then I was told that it was a reference to pornography. I still didn’t understand at all. Then I was told the title of the film to which it is alleged to refer: Two Girls One Cup. I had never heard of it until yesterday and wish I hadn’t because it’s so gross. It is so notorious that it even has a Wikipedia page describing it and reactions to it. Don’t click if you’re easily disgusted. I am fairly broad-minded but I found it entirely disgusting.

I’m told that the film generated a large number of derogatory and misogynistic memes circulated on social media but they all passed me by too. I must be too old.

But even knowing about the film I still don’t see the paper’s title as a reference to it. Had it been an attempt to be a pun then I would have got it, but I don’t think it is. “Flares” and “shock” don’t rhyme with or sound anything like “girls” and “cup”. If it was meant as a pun it’s a failure on two counts. Is every phrase of the form “Two X One Y” now a reference to scat porn?

If anything I would interpret the title as a reference to the idiomatic expression “to kill two birds with one stone”. Or it could just be a reference to the fact that the paper is about two flares associated with one shock.

Regardless of my opinions, though, if this combination of words has caused offence – whether intentionally or not – then it is not a big deal to change the title and that’s what should be done. I’d suggest that simply inserting “with” or “from” would do the trick.

The comments I saw on Twitter yesterday basically divide into those like me who didn’t get the alleged reference at all and those who were appalled. The latter were almost exclusively younger people based in America (who are more likely to have been exposed to the film) . The authors of the paper are predominantly based outside the USA and in my view it would be a mistake to assume they all share the same cultural experience as a particular demographic of the United States. I think it would be very unfair to jump to the conclusion that the reference is deliberate.

I’m genuinely interested to see what people think about this title. I realise I have spoilt this by giving the background, but here’s a poll. Please answer by giving your initial reaction.

Update: the title has been changed, as I suggested…

27 Responses to “Two X One Y”

  1. Phillip Helbig Says:

    The second poll is more interesting.

  2. Phillip Helbig Says:

  3. Dave Carter Says:

    There does seem to be an assumption amongst the demographic that you describe, that the whole world knows about or is even interested in their culture. There are numerous examples for instance of companies, American and UK companies included, having acronyms which spell out offensive words in some language. So for people in the USA to expect that people outside the USA would know what is offensive to them is hypocritical.

  4. Phillip Helbig Says:

    For those who see certain unintended meanings (perhaps we should call them “literary illusions”), such as “woodie” at 0:55, let me point out that, despite the unbalanced gender ratio, it refers to a type of car (with a partially wooden body), as referred to in the first verse.

  5. I call this the tyranny of porn. It’s getting to the stage that there are very few expressions left that don’t have some other meaning. So what?

  6. Tom Lehrer: “When correctly viewed, everything is lewd…”

  7. If this title is found offensive, can we please also get rid of stupid puns like H0LiCOW in titles and collaboration names.

  8. I had heard of two girls one cup – its referenced in Family Guy and I think also South Park – but would not for a moment have associated the title of the paper with it. Two birds one stone was my first thought.

  9. Mark Fernald Says:

    If we can use SExtractor on a daily basis without batting an eye, this shouldn’t be an issue.

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