Friday, October 07, 2011

“I like America”

In his book on poetry, Beautiful and Pointless, David Orr does some research. Into the Google search box he slips a phrase like “I like baseball,” then compares the number of results to a phrase like “I love baseball.” “I like baseball,” Orr says, returns nearly 5 times as many results as “I love baseball.” Orr:
[T]he phrase “I like music” appears roughly three times as often as “I love music,” and the phrase “I like movies” is about five times as common as “I love movies.” (Indeed, the general preference for “I like X” is stronger than you might expect: Even “I love America” gets roundly stomped by “I like America,” just as “I love beer” is, to my sorrow and surprise, trumped by “I like beer.”) But the phrase “I love poetry” beats “I like poetry” by a ratio of two to one. … [N]o matter how many times I ran these particular searches (and I did this repeatedly over several days), I never got a result in which “I love poetry” failed to outperform the “like” version; in fact, one particular, presumably aberrant search returned thirty-six occurrences of “love” for every occurrence of “like.”

I repeated the experiment. For “I like poetry” I got about 1,260,000 results. For “I love poetry” I got about 4,170,000 results.

Then I thought, why not, I’ll try, “I don’t like poetry,” and got about 961,000 results. For “I hate poetry” I got about 285,000 results. Amusingly, many of the initial “I hate poetry” results are poems or poetry discussion groups.

I did pretty quickly find another supposedly atypical love/like asymmetry. “I love sex” (about 31,000,000 results) vs. “I like sex” (about 11,900,000 results). Does this say something about Poetry?

Interestingly, considering yesterday’s post, the likes vs. the loves as regards ping-pong are fairly comparable: “I like ping pong” (about 287,000 results) vs. “I love ping pong” (about 263,000 results). (For Orr the likes vs. the loves for “poker” came out about the same.) He also searches Cooking (2.8 : 1), Gardening (2.54 : 1), Romance Novels (3.36 : 1), and Stamp Collecting (3.5 : 1).

source: Beautiful and Pointless: a guide to modern poetry by David Orr


Art Durkee said...

Not that I view Google as perfectly reliable data, but the difference between "like" and "love" may only prove how sloppy most people about are using their own language. Lots of folks say "love" when they really mean "like." There isn't a hard definitional wall between those words.

Once again, I'm surprised Mr. Orr hasn't thought about this, but lets himself use some sloppy premises that he then tries to draw hard conclusions from.

Clearly Mr. Orr has never heard of or used fuzzy set theory.

Glenn Ingersoll said...

I think Orr was goofing around, frankly. So I played along.

I searched "fuzzy set theory" and found a "brief introduction" that quickly pulled out symbols from other-than-Roman alphabets. I'm afraid I stepped away.

Art Durkee said...

Well, maybe Orr was goofing, but it's still sloppy thinking. LOL

The essence of fuzzy set theory is that you can discuss and work with sets without having to know every element in them, or knowing exactly what their boundaries are. it allows for being able to handle a set without having known all of its contents. This is particularly useful for working with logic systems (like computer programs) without having to list and manage every element. It's sort of like big-picture set theory.

Glenn Ingersoll said...

OK. Thanks.