A big vocabulary is like a full toolbox; you might not need every tool for every job, but every tool has a time and place. The way we pick up new vocabulary is a fascinating and complicated field, but measuring our vocabulary can be equally complicated. Researchers trying to learn more about this field have created testyourvocab.com. The test has you go through and choose the words you can define and then estimates your vocabulary at the end. A typical score for a native English speaker is between 20,000-35,000 words. Keep in mind, there is most probably a sample bias at work here, since the people most likely to test their vocabulary are the same people who would value a large one. Nonetheless, it’s an interesting experiment. You might be surprised by how much you know.
The f-bomb. That satisfying combination of syllables that can be a noun, verb, or most any part of a sentence or phrase. But who uses it the most? New Yorkers? Texans? Brits?
Now we can track the drops of the f-bomb (on twitter at least) with fbomb.co. Every time a tweet goes out containing those four controversial letters, the map on fbomb.co updates and drops a missile down on the location where it was tweeted. And if you’re prone to dropping a few bombs yourself, you might even catch your own tweets coming down and leaving a puff of smoke behind.
In 1873, a doctor and Harvard professor wrote that “A woman’s body could only handle a limited number of developmental tasks at one time—that girls who spent to much energy developing their minds during puberty would end up with undeveloped or diseased reproductive systems.” It was not satire.
His advice was promptly and thoroughly ignored by women’s colleges of the time, where women were encouraged to study the sciences. Unfortunately, women’s colleges were still largely underfunded. They sometimes needed to pair with other colleges for support. It was in one of these pairings that the ‘Harvard Computers’ were formed.
The ‘Harvard Computers’ were a group of women mapping the universe as a team lead by Williamina Fleming – a maid for Edward Pickering. She ended up in the position after Pickering fired his incompetent male assistant. The ‘Harvard Computers’ are still not well known, rarely being recognized in history or science books… but at least they’re (mostly) not referred to as ‘Pickering’s Harem’ anymore. To find out more about these underappreciated scientists, check out the Smithsonian’s blog post on the topic.
Our digital world isn’t confined to just the digital anymore. Kickstarters, secret santas, and online political movements all bleed into our physical spaces. And internet culture is pervasive, even offline. People will actually say ‘I can has?’ or imitate a ‘doge’ in casual conversation. Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing is likely all perspective, but like any culture, there are positive and negative aspects. Tumblr user LiarTownUSA explores some of these negative aspects in a way that mimics real physical artifacts with their series of mock-up book covers.