Google Blogoscoped

Friday, May 7, 2004

Googling Interchangeable Words

I’m interested in how words are getting mixed up together, and how this can make the way for political action.
Let’s say for a minute “wild animal” and “German” would be synonymous; well then sure it would be OK to say “I’m hunting down a German”, because “hunting down a wild animal” is not too unreasonable.

While this example sounds quite unreal at first, replace the words with e.g. “Terror” and “Iraqis”. If the two are used interchangeably by most media and major politicians, then we can also find applying the same concepts to them makes sense. So if I fight against terror, this implies I must start fighting against Iraqis – and in reverse, when fighting against Iraqis, I’m just fighting against terror.

Then we got “Axis of Evil”, “Weapons of Mass Destruction”, “Osama”, and “Saddam” – players in a game of unlimited semiosis which often replace one another.

War Against ...

Google portrays a great portion of news outlets and personal opinion, so I took it to find out more about those “wildcard” words. I added a feature to FindForward to complete a sentence to find the most-used words within.
This is the result for Bush’s War Against ....

*These figures show most pages mentioning “Bush’s War Against” complete this with “Bush’s War Against Iraq”. Second-most used is “terrorism” and “terror”. It also means that “Iraq”, “Terrorism”, “Saddam” and so on are often used not only in the same context, but also in ways they become interchangeable.

Then I searched for “War against ...” on

But take “War against ...” as found on

Suddenly, the war against Iraq becomes the major focus. (A web-wide search pushes terrorism to number two spot as well.)

Word Groups

On a less political note, “I like to drink ...” returns the following statistic:

Which means these words can be grouped together(except for “hot” they are all drinks, of course).
Similar if we want to grow such a list from a single word, say “beer”, we could analyze the context of “beer” (e.g. “I like to drink beer”, “I bought a beer”, “drinking beer is good for me”, and so on). Then we could replace “beer” with a wildcard and see what other words appear in those phrases.

Another one; “I Love to ...” gets you:

Note that common words (like “the”, “of”, and so on) are filtered from the result list.
You can also use this new FindForward option to include your own wildcard anywhere in the phrase. This means you can query for “George * Bush”:

If you go for swear words, then “What the * is this” does the job (I’ll spare you the results here). You can also try any other query. Let me know if you come across an especially interesting result list.

Refined Search With More Results

Impossible? The more refined this German-language search becomes, the more results it seems to get (via Magnus Wemmer):

Then again, Google always states result count is only an approximation.


Blog  |  Forum     more >> Archive | Feed | Google's blogs | About


This site unofficially covers Google™ and more with some rights reserved. Join our forum!