3.769 "no" outranks "yes"; "it" becomes "italian" (81)

Willard McCarty (MCCARTY@vm.epas.utoronto.ca)
Tue, 21 Nov 89 17:40:17 EST

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 3, No. 769. Tuesday, 21 Nov 1989.

(1) Date: Tue, 21 Nov 89 09:37:42 GMT-0500 (43 lines)
From: mike@tome.media.mit.edu (Michael Hawley)
Subject: affirmative ratio

(2) Date: Tue, 21 Nov 89 12:07:38 CST (18 lines)
From: Walter Giesbrecht <WALTERG@YORKVM2.BITNET>
Subject: CD-ROM database errors

(1) --------------------------------------------------------------------
Date: Tue, 21 Nov 89 09:37:42 GMT-0500
From: mike@tome.media.mit.edu (Michael Hawley)
Subject: affirmative ratio

Subject: Thou shalt not . . .

Random statistical quirk for the day: the word "no" appears 1344 times
in the King James Bible, but the word "yes" appears only twice!
(Grep for yourself if you don't believe me). At first I thought
this was just a hilarious artifact of religious dogma, so I checked
Alice in Wonderland -- "yes" appears only once! Curiouser and curiouser.
Well it turns out to be a property of English (yes/no = .066 on average),
and when you consider why this might be, it's undoubtedly due to the fact
that "no" can combine with a great many other words and phrases ("at no
"no idea", "no uncertain terms", "no way jose", etc). "Yes" just doesn't
socialize that way. But there may also be some reason for why "yes",
when it occurs, sounds more definite because so much of the rest is negative.
(It would be interesting to check other languages like French or German
which don't overload "no" -- can anyone clear this up?).

This of course reminds us of a psychiatrist who painfully
transcribed psychoanalysis sessions to find the "a/the" ratio. This
allegedly showed whether the patient was using generalities vs. being
specific and facing actualities. We have no follow-up on this curious case.
His name was Joe Jaffe, practising in New York, and he said the study was
published. Must have been in late 1960s. (thanks, Prof. Minsky).

I once heard of a fellow named Gottlob Burmann, a German poet around 1770,
who wrote 130 poems (20K words) without once using the letter "r". In
fact, during the last 17 years of his life he omitted "r" from his daily
conversation! A similar sort of twitch seemed to afflict a bunch of
Portuguese writers in Lisbon during the mid 1600's -- Alonso Herrera
published 5 stories omitting a different vowel in each. Four or five
other writers followed suit with similar efforts. And of course in '39,
Ernest Wright published his monumental novel, "Gadsby," which never used
the letter 'e' (quite a feat since 'e' is the commonest English letter).
That would have blown Jaffe off the scale! With no definite articles,
he'd have been dividing by zero, and as everyone knows, you need a
Master's degree in Science, and probably a mylar suit and goggles,
before attempting a feat like that.

(2) --------------------------------------------------------------24----
Date: Tue, 21 Nov 89 12:07:38 CST
From: Walter Giesbrecht <WALTERG@YORKVM2.BITNET>
Subject: CD-ROM database errors

[The following is offered as a humorous commentary on the power of
search-and-replace, which I assume is the culprit. --W.M.]

We have discovered a rather strange error on our copy of sociofile by
SilverPlatter. It seems that every instance of the word "it" at the
beginning of a sentence has been substituted by the word "italian". This
has since been confirmed by the librarian at a local college to be
present on their copy as well. We don't yet know whether this is common
to all SilverPlatter databases. I thought you might all like to know.
Has anyone else noticed this, or are there any other blatant errors like
this one, lurking on other CD-ROMs?

Walter Giesbrecht
York University