Saturday, 27 November 2004

Articles of faith

Over in Verbal Energy, Ruth Walker has an article on the proper use of the definite article - i.e. the "the" (not to be confused with the band The The). That made me think: one thing I dislike about English usage in Singapore is the tendency to drop the "the" - for instance, in talking about a speech made by the Prime Minister, some people open with "Prime Minister said..." I've heard this may also be the internal style of the British government, so it's not necessarily wrong, but it certainly sounds unidiomatic, and certainly not the style of formal reporting (the BBC, for one, definitely uses "the PM").

The same blog entry also points to wordcount.org, a fascinating site that ranks words in the English language according to their usage in British English, based on the British National Corpus ("the" is #1 with a bullet - no surprises there). It's the tail end that has some weird relative positions: why is "drewitt" (#81662) more used than "feasibly" (#81663)? It's not even a word, more like a surname. Other strange words in the list: "anaya" (#73742). Oh wait, some peeking at the "about" portion seems to indicate that proper nouns are included in the count. So, egoist that I am, I checked out "Daryl" (#31858), which apparently just beats out "cookie" for usage. The funny part is the Querycount, which tracks the words people like to find the rank of. No surprise, most people look up dirty words. It's like when you first learn a language, everyone first wants to learn how to swear.

On the design side, I really like the way the site represents the usage of words visually, with different font sizes indicating the relative popularity of words. Elegant and clean.




Just found this comment. It is a SURNAME.


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