Word Archaeology: Visualizing the Way We Use Language

The way we use words can say a lot about us as individuals and as societies; the award-winning WordCount website helps us visualize our word use in an utterly poetic way. Using a database of 86,800 words, WordCount maps out the most-used words in the English language. They are arranged in order of popularity, with each descending word growing smaller and smaller.

As fun as it is to start at the beginning and scroll your way through the words, choosing a random word and taking note of those surrounding it offers a unique insight into the way we think, speak and write. As pointed out by the website’s creator, Jonathan Harris: “Observing closely ranked words tells us a great deal about our culture. For instance, “God” is one word from “began”, two words from “start”, and six words from “war”. Another sequence is “america ensure oil opportunity”. Conspiracists unite! As ever, the more one explores, the more is revealed.”


WordCount has been around for a while already; it was the 2003 winner of the American Institute of Graphic Arts’ Award for Information Design and the 2005 People’s Voice Webby winner in the “Arts” category. Still, it has kept our interest over time and can still help us fritter away an entire day at a time.

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See more in Digital Design or under Technology. March, 2011.
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