WordCountâ„¢ is an artistic experiment in the way we use language. It presents the 86,800 most frequently used English words, ranked in order of commonness. Each word is scaled to reflect its frequency relative to the words that precede and follow it, giving a visual barometer of relevance. The larger the word, the more we use it. The smaller the word, the more uncommon it is.
Here’s another interesting exercise in visually representing language, called Word Count. You can type in any word and find out how often it is used. “Wild” for example is number 1848, with Russian on one side (1847) and Liverpool (1849) on the other. The data base used is something called the British National Corpus, “a 100 million word collection of samples of written and spoken language from a wide range of sources, designed to represent a wide cross-section of current British English, both spoken and written.” That in itself is worth looking over.
One of the stranger side effects of this nicely designed site is that people began to find patterns in the sequences of word frequency counts. And, of course, they mailed the owner of the site, Jonathon Harris, to tell him what they found. This begot the WordCount Conspiracy Game, a search for apparent meaning in the lists of words. If you type in my first name, for example, you get this sequence, from 4115-4119, “washed ray removal organic pairs.” Who knew? Here are a few of my favorite Conspiracy Game listings:
|992-995||america ensure oil opportunity|
|30523-30525||despotism clinching internet|
|4304-4307||microsoft aquire salary tremendous|
|17244-17246||neon porn convict|
|5283-5285||angel seeks supper|
Another game is called 70s Movie Title Search, and they also have something called Query Count, which tracks the words people search for in Word Count. Can you guess what the number one word might be? When I checked: sex.