Alex (yakshaver) wrote,
Alex
yakshaver

Google as a spell-checker

I often use Google when I'm not sure how a word is spelled, especially when I have two alternative spellings in mind, on the theory that if the number of hits differs by an order of magnitude or more, the one with more hits is probably correct. Today I tried this in a way I quickly realized was subtly sloppy, with misleading results:

  • 4,660,000 for hermann miller
  • 806,000 for herman miller

Two "n"s beats one by better than five to one, that's straightforward enough. But I can't help but notice that the top four hits for both searches (i.e. the ones I can see without scrolling) all conspicuously say "Herman Miller", with one "n". What's up with that?

What it is, of course, is that I'd constructed my search sloppily. I was interested in how Herman[n] is spelled when conjoined to "Miller", but what I had searched for was how it is spelled when the two words happen to appear on the same web page. A situation in which, for whatever reason, Hermann vastly outnumbers Herman. Putting a dot between the two words* yields:

  • 28,900 for hermann.miller
  • 2,080,000 for herman.miller

One hundred to one. Now that's more like it....

* Googling miserable.failure and "miserable failure" are equivalent; I prefer the former because it's less typing and I'm lazy.

Tags: english, geek
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