random website friday: word count.

The Western culture ranks things constantly. The top 10 this and the ugliest 5 those and the 100 greatest these of all time and the 7 wonders of the world. Quantifying gives us an equal measure to scale things no matter how ephemeral they may be. #1 is the most whatever and everything subsequent is less… whatever it is. So why not rank language itself?

Word Count tracks the 86,800 most frequently used words in the English language and ranks them in order of commonness. Created by the almost frighteningly brilliant Jonathan Harris, it’s source is the British National Corpus, a collection of 100 million published writing samples from a variety of sources. Word Count includes any word that shows up in the BNC at least twice.

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The 5 most popular words (when I wrote this post) were “the”, “of”, “and”, “to”, and “a”. Nothing shocking there. I’m pleased to report that “fuck” comes in at a healthy #5598. If you’re interested in the rankings of the first 5 words that came to my head (please don’t judge) then we’ve got: “adore” at #22,013, “expunge” at #58,890, “ejaculation” at #54,644, “phosphorus” at #20,611 (who knew that many people were talking about phosphorus?) and “barnacle” at #50,129.

Disappointingly, this means people are talking more about barnacles than ejaculation. WTF?

Word Count even has it’s own site where people can submit suspiciously logical groupings of words. Among the interesting social tidbits I found on Word Count Conspiracy (part of Harris’ website Number27) were #992-995 “america ensure oil opportunity” and #7964-7967 “homosexual loses papal schooling”.

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