Friday, February 24, 2006

Concordancing in the streets

Is anyone else obsessed with the Concordance feature on Amazon? I love it. It almost looks like a poem, I think. Look up your favorite books and watch their most consistently occuring words float in a box, their size commensurate with how often they occur in the text.

When you look up most books written in the third person, the name of their protagonist tends to be the biggest word in the concordance box. I quickly became interested in what other books' biggest, most reccuring word would be.

In Sir Burton's rendition of A Thousand Nights and One Night, the word is thou. In the anonymous version, the word is King.

In Joyce's Portrait of the Artist, the word is Stephen, and in Ulysses, it's Bloom.

In Mrs Dalloway, Clarissa almost ties with thought (thought wins by 4 occurences), but in The Waves, the most reccuring word is now.

In Swann's Way, the word is Swann, followed by time. Unfortunately, there are no concordance stats available for all of Remembrance of Things Past.

I looked up the concordance on three lesbian coming of age novels: Dorothy Allison's Bastard Out of Carolina; Jeannette Winterson's Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit; Audre Lorde's Zami. In all three, the most recurring word is mother. Which I find very intersting indeed.


Blogger abouazar said...

I'm lazy. Can you post a link to it?


3:30 PM  
Blogger rockslinga said...

Hey chris,
You can click on where it says "anonymous version" in my post and scroll down a bit to see to the stats. they're not available for all books, though, but if they are, there'll be a section underneath the book's info and concordance is in the third or fourth line after...

8:01 PM  
Blogger femme feral said...


4:00 PM  
Blogger Reformed Cynic said...

Funky. Never noticed that feature before, thanks for pointing it out.

There's a similar 'art project' going on at, but on a slightly larger scale: the whole of the English language. By turns funny and disturbing, always fascinating. There's even a whole section dedicated to conspiracy theorists:

Wouldn't it be incredible to do a cross-linguistic comparison?

4:39 PM  

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