Sunday, April 29, 2007

Watching the Words They Use

I did not watch the debate of Democratic candidates for president the other night. It really does seem too early. But I am interested and was pleased to discover a tag-cloud analysis of what the candidates had to say over at pollster.com.

A tag-cloud is a weighted list of words presented graphically to show frequency of use. I use two on this site (down in the left-hand sidebar), one of tags I've used to categorize my blog posts and one of the tags I use on del.icio.us.

In this case, the tag-cloud is made up of the top 50 words used by each of the candidates (less the common connector words like "and," or, and "the"). They are arranged alphabetically and presented in different sized fonts, depending on the frequency of the use of that word.


I note that our own Joe Biden's tag-cloud shows that many words got similar attention from the Senator. Other candidates showed a marked preference for specific words. Senator Clinton, for example, was clearly focused on the word "president."

Commenters on the pollster.com site have pointed out, correctly, that our focus should be more on the ideas that the candidates espouse than on the words they use to present them. But I am interested in words and language and I find this sort of analysis interesting.

A commenter also pointed, helpfully, to a tag-cloud of Attorney General Gonzales' recent Senate testimony.

And I was interested to find a link from pollster.com to a tool for making this sort of word-visualization: TagCrowd. Perhaps I should use this analyze my own writing from time to time.

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