Wordly wobblings

My findings from the Google Ngram Viewer are that we did not like “idea” very much in the first half of the eighteenth century.  Our feelings about “truth” have varied substantially; we liked it quite a lot during the mid-nineteenth century, but in 1910 we started preferring “idea” and this has stayed fairly consistent since then.  Ngram

My Up-Goer Five definition of DH goes like this:

It is about doing old things in new ways. Or, if you ask another person, it is about doing new things in even newer ways. People who do it don’t agree on what things are most important or how to study them. Human life changed when books did away with forms of writing that came before them. Computer forms of stuff that used to be only on paper might be doing the same thing now. Computers can make stories look different, but does that mean that they ARE different at the bottom? Or is it only the way that we look at them? If we use computers to read books, we can study different ideas about them. The question is whether those kinds of ideas leave out the kind that came before. The question is also whether the old kinds of study leave out ideas that one can only reach by using new ways. Perhaps the best way to put the question is: How do we decide whether the old or new way is best for something we want to learn (or, better yet, how we can put the two together)?


While the original XKCD comic is funny, I think this concept can only work well when humor, not communication, is the point.  It could be helpful if someone is taking him/herself too seriously and wants to re-evaluate a statement in search of excessive jargon, but it does not seem useful for describing something to someone who does not already know what you are talking about.  Without the words “digital,” “humanities,” “electronic,” or “interpret” I wasn’t able to make a definition that could let somebody who had never heard of DH know what I was describing.

So, on to Wordle.  I used the Gutenberg text of King Lear (minus the fine print and introductory “comments”) and this was what I got:


Word it Out gave me this:


Obviously, the speech prefixes dominate these clouds; Lear and Kent are the most prominent in both clouds.

Running the Word it Out list through the Up-Goer Five produced these words:

tell one night Sister say make see great done further now man hath long life late Daughter good Daughters Enter name mans answer away yet part better Father fit eyes nothing cold else old some Horse Gods time home go hand least way take Letter heard here much against still know Sir rather heart both all though found more come art Let most well like little many place follow age gone made other comes hold death none mad call within Brother full power hast head Sisters makes Lady after two set being put came do’s thing What’s toward Boy where’s best world thought men reason stand word Oh before any dead first bring house Friend blood matter true since told dost draw fire doth Fathers course things cause strange sight stands


One thing that surprised me is that “Lady” could stay but “gentleman” had to go.  Someone who was not aware of the context could probably gather that family relationships are a major theme of the work represented, but could probably not go much further than that.

The CLAWS tagger produced this:

place_NN1 hast_VHB turne_NN1 feare_NN1 Storme_NN1 Master_NN1 since_CJS 
i'th_NN1 th_NN0 Edgar_NP0 halfe_NN1 Edg_NN1 businesse_NN1 else_AV0 Enter_VVB 
leaue_NN1 Slaue_NN1 done_VDN thing_NN1 stand_NN1 heare_NN1 Ha_ITJ Regan_NP0 
Cornwall_NP0 speake_NN1 Lady_NN1 comes_VVZ world_NN1 Madam_NN1 head_NN1 
some_DT0 still_AJ0 Sword_NN1 Sir_NN1 againe_VVB thy_DPS farre_NN1 liue_NN1 
till_PRP any_DT0 Cordelia_NN1 most_AV0 set_VVN Knaue_NP0 told_VVD forth_AV0 
fire_VVB Brother_NP0 Daughters_NP0 Ile_NP0 meanes_NN2 gaue_VVB none_PNI 
being_VBG fit_AJ0 know_VVB within_PRP do'st_NN1 Douer_NN1 Cor_ITJ call_NN1 
nor_CJC Bast_VVB other_AJ0 Gentleman_NN1 Foole_NN1 backe_NN1 men_NN2
things_NN2 Noble_AJ0 neuer_NN1 Trumpet_NN1 pray_VVB seene_NN1 Alacke_VVB 
hither_AV0 goe_VVB now_AV0 Glou_NP0 more_AV0 bring_VVB vp_NN0 true_AJ0 
though_CJS much_AV0 two_CRD Villaine_NP0 euer_NN1 heard_VVD fellow_NN1 
gone_VVN Edmund_NP0 Scena_NP0 Fortunes_NN2 hold_VVB put_VVB where_AVQ 's_VBZ 
whom_PNQ take_VVB himselfe_NN1 do_VDB 's_POS Corn_NN1 ere_PRP sleepe_NN1 
euery_NN1 better_AJC King_NN1 say_VVB Stew_NN1 deere_NN1 first_ORD bin_NN1 
Fathers_NN2 finde_NN1 Duke_NP0 Gent_NP0 Gloster_NP0 cause_NN1 Knights_NN2 
good_AJ0 name_NN1 Oh_ITJ T_PNP is_VBZ returne_NN1 Sonne_UNC Horse_NN1 away_AV0 
France_NP0 Exit_NN1 Bastard_NN1 looke_NN1 make_VVB after_PRP o'th_NN1 
Prythee_NN1 wits_NN2 makes_VVZ Reg_NP0 word_NN1 little_AV0 vs_PRP Steward_NN1 
like_PRP age_NN1 Nature_NN1 thine_DPS cold_NN1 follow_VVB shalt_VM0 
against_PRP stands_NN2 What_DTQ 's_VBZ rather_AV0 way_AV0 seeke_VVB 
further_AV0 came_VVD Father_NN1 haue_VHB answer_NN1 knowne_NN1 long_AV0 
home_AV0 many_DT0 loue_VVB Sisters_NN2 life_NN1 Gods_NN2 late_AV0 thee_PNP 
made_VVD Fortune_NN1 Alb_NP0 eyes_VVZ nothing_PNI farewell_NN1 Edmond_NP0 
feele_NN1 purpose_NN1 Tom_NP0 old_AJ0 Friend_NN1 see_VVB found_VVN least_DT0 
power_NN1 dead_AJ0 Traitor_NN1 well_AV0 Let_VVB vse_NN1 toward_PRP blood_NN1 
euen_NN1 Lear_NP0 draw_VVB Lord_NN1 reason_NN1 mad_AJ0 strange_AJ0 heart_NN1 
here_AV0 Letter_NN1 yet_AV0 Albany_NP0 Gon_NP0 Gonerill_NP0 man_NN1 part_NN1 
one_CRD great_AJ0 Glo_NP0 dost_VDB heere_AJ0 giue_NN1 downe_NN1 doth_VDZ 
poore_NN1 lesse_NN1 come_VVB hand_NN1 Kent_NP0 Grace_NP0 art_NN1 helpe_NN1 
go_VVB matter_NN1 foule_NN1 course_NN1 thou_PNP strike_VVB Boy_NN1 vpon_NN1 
whose_DTQ thinke_NN1 thought_NN1 beare_NN1 peace_NN1 hath_VHZ Exeunt_UNC 
death_NN1 full_AJ0 Sister_NN1 owne_NN1 house_NN1 selfe_NN1 night_NN1 best_AJS 
Fiend_NN1 keepe_NN1 both_AV0 tell_VVB Ste_NN1 mans_NN2 sight_VVB Glouster_NN1 
all_DT0 hence_AV0 before_PRP Daughter_NN1 time_NN1 ..._SENT **42;7;TOOLONG_UNC

I’m sorry; I can’t give a useful analysis of this.  The site is the opposite of the word cloud generators in that it is not even a little bit user-friendly.  The key to tags is not straightforwardly organized.  I tried to find what “NPO” (or possibly “NP0) might mean, but it was not in the list.  Perhaps this would make more sense to me if I knew something about coding.

Pushing onward into the land of things I don’t understand, I approached TAPoR and HyperPo.  Using this site was extremely frustrating because, once I uploaded the text (I couldn’t copy and paste, so the Gutenberg “comments” came along for the ride), the resulting window did not include labeled buttons.  I got the following analyzing the word “daughter”:



If I’m using it right, this tool indicates that the word “daughter” occurs most often in Act 1, Scene 2 — the scene in which Lear divides his kingdom.  This scene coincides with the highest number of mentions of “Cordelia” but not of “Gonerill” or “Regan.”  I think this set of tools has the most potential usefulness, but I had trouble understanding how to make them useful.  I tried some of the “help,” “tutorial,” and “tour” features, but I kept running into “page not found” and “router error” messages; I don’t know if I was doing something wrong or if the site just wasn’t working very well.

Ramsay was right:  these tools make the text of King Lear look completely unfamiliar.  As I flailed about through these mysterious new waters, I found that the mere strangeness of what I was seeing was almost overwhelming.  I can see that I might eventually be able to put these tools to productive use, but first I need to become more comfortable navigating digital environments.

2 thoughts on “Wordly wobblings

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