It turns out that what readers of the (online) New York Times looked at more than anything else in 2013 was actually a series of maps. An interactive webpage that generated maps when people responded to a series of dialect prompts. Why so popular? People like to answer simple, online, multiple-choice questions, especially about themselves. People like to reminisce about their childhood places, where their pronunciations of words were first fixed. People needed a distraction from the end-of-the-year activities in chaotic December. People had more unstructured and free time to hang out online over the holidays.
It doesn’t really matter why. I just like the way the application’s developers describe the statistical patterns, and the way that geography and language are naturally linked. And I love every chance available for people to become aware of geographic patterns.
Another clever use of geocoded Tweets, to see where profanity emerges. Patterns of profanity. Profane patterns. http://cartastrophe.wordpress.com/2011/01/24/no-swearing-in-utah/
Reminds me of this version too, at the State level. Search for words, watch trends as word usage waxes and wanes. http://www.lexicalist.com/
There’s a fascinating article in today’s New York Times Magazine on connections between language and space, geographic and otherwise. If you like these ideas, also check out the works of Stephen Pinker. I’ve been reading his The Stuff of Thought this summer and makes references to these ideas throughout.
Reading this reminds me of how much I enjoy cognitive studies, from an armchair perspective. Understanding how we think and learn is fascinating stuff.
>11-year-old Eric: Uh, Mom, what’s the name of this thing here in the bathroom that you use to wash your butt? A beignet*?
Mom: Uh, no, Eric. That’s a bidet. And stop spraying the water everywhere!
* The only reason my son knows the word beignet is that I brought him and his sisters a box of the mix for these French doughnuts after I visited New Orleans last year.
>When we were walking around earlier this week I saw a sign in a window that said “Busco Ovejero Alemán.” I stumbled over ovejero. From ovo (egg)? “Looking for German Eggmaker”? “Looking for German Stud”? Nah, too many World War II connotations. Ah, from ovejo. Sheep. “Looking for German Sheeper.” Or, perhaps German Shepherd makes more sense. This is the land of dogs. Got house? Got dog. Or two, or three. Even more so since the economic collapse 5 1/2 years ago, and people are feeling less secure than ever so everyone has a dog. Not the tiny yappy ones popular around Southern California, but large barky ones who excel at intimidating. A siren last night tipped off a chorus of guard dogs from all directions. Made me miss my two quiet cats, who would be lousy guards.