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#1 2015-06-06 08:43:24

Dixon Wragg
Eggcornista
From: Cotati, California
Registered: 2008-07-04
Posts: 1313

Confusion about the Ngram Viewer

I just looked up “your John Hancock” and “your John Henry” on the google ngram viewer and got this notification: “Search for “your John Hancock” yielded only one result. Search for “your John Henry” yielded only one result.” BUT, just under that notification was a graph for those two phrases that indicated that there must have been quite a few results (you can’t get a line graph at all from just one result for each phrase). This has happened to me with the ngram viewer several times now, but only recently. Does anyone here know what the heck is going on?

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#2 2015-06-06 12:19:58

kem
Eggcornista
From: Victoria, BC
Registered: 2007-08-28
Posts: 2632

Re: Confusion about the Ngram Viewer

I’m not getting that message, Dixon. Here is the search I’m doing

You are correct: the Ngram search has to find about 40 examples in its five million books before it graphs a word. This dampens most of the OCR/misspelling noise in the dataset.

“John Hancock” as a name for a signature is popular in both the UK and US, even though John Hancock was an American patriot and the analogy is based on his prominent signature on the American Declaration of Independence. “John Henry” as a generic name, however, is a thoroughly American usage. An Ngram search on British sources does not find it and the OED says that its equivalence with “John Hancock” is “U.S. local slang.”


Hatching new language, one eggcorn at a time.

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#3 2015-06-07 02:45:46

Dixon Wragg
Eggcornista
From: Cotati, California
Registered: 2008-07-04
Posts: 1313

Re: Confusion about the Ngram Viewer

kem wrote:

I’m not getting that message, Dixon.

Weird, because I did the same search and got the aforementioned message (which contradicted the fact that I also got the line graph)!

“John Hancock” as a name for a signature is popular in both the UK and US, even though John Hancock was an American patriot and the analogy is based on his prominent signature on the American Declaration of Independence. “John Henry” as a generic name, however, is a thoroughly American usage. An Ngram search on British sources does not find it and the OED says that its equivalence with “John Hancock” is “U.S. local slang.”

I’m not sure how many Canucks or Brits would know this, but John Henry was the “steel-drivin’ man” in a famous American folk song about the clash between human muscle and early (steam-powered) automation, which would explain its commonness in the USA and absence in the UK.

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