TED talks: setting a good example (and then some)

Wordnik + Wordie

Photo by, and licensed from, advencap.

As you might already know, we here at Wordnik are huge fans of the TED conference (and probably wouldn’t be doing Wordnik without TED)! So when we had a chance to add the TED talk transcripts to the Wordnik corpus of language use (our giant collection of the English language that we mine for example sentences and cool stats), we jumped at it — and we weren’t disappointed, because we found some fantastic words (and examples) in them.

For instance, here’s a great example from E.O. Wilson’s Ted Prize talk about saving life on Earth:

“The viruses, those quasi-organisms among which are the prophasias — the gene weavers that promote the continued evolution in the lives of the bacteria — are a virtually unknown frontier of modern biology, a world unto themselves.”

“And what you’re looking at with this namibiensis is the biggest bacteria we’ve ever seen.”

(from Juan Enriquez on genomics and our future)

“You can think of this as the language of thought, or Mentalese.”

(from Steven Pinker on language and thought)

Another great thing about the language of the TED talks is that it’s spoken language — formal spoken language written down, but still spoken. Which means we get proof for great words like web-ness:

“So every item, every artifact that we make, will have embedded in it some little sliver of web-ness and connection, and it will be part of this machine, so that our environment — kind of in that ubiquitous-computing sense — our environment becomes the web.”

(from Kevin Kelly on the next 5,000 days of the web)

These sentences show what Wordnik believes — that great sentences from great communicators help illuminate words better than any dictionary definition ever could.

(And yes, one of my sentences made it in, too, and I’m happy to be in such good company.)

Wordnik + Wordie

Wordnik + Wordie

Photo by, and licensed from, mybloodyself.

We are very excited to announce that John McGrath of Wordie.org is joining Wordnik … and that Wordie.org is joining Wordnik, too.

John brings tons of experience in making word-lovers happy, plus a great background in data visualization and Cool Web Stuff (we lured him away from the special web projects team at the New York Times). We’re thrilled he’s decided to make connecting people and words his day job!

We also feel like kids at Christmas at the prospect of merging all the great things we love about Wordie.org—the fantastic word discussion threads, the great lists, the fun user profile pages—with the torrents of data that we’re amassing here at Wordnik HQ, and having John around to help us make a site that is useful, friendly, helpful, and most of all, fun!

For the moment (while John moves to join us in California and settles in) neither Wordniks nor Wordies will see any big changes. We’ll be planning and plotting and figuring out how best to add Wordie’s right brain to Wordnik’s left (and Wordie’s chocolate to Wordnik’s peanut butter) so that we can build the best darn dictionary of the future possible.

Hurrah! We Have a Word-of-the-Day Widget!

Wordnik now has a word-of-the-day (henceforth WOTD) widget!

Wordnik WOTD widget

You can check it out and grab the code here.

With our new widget you can display the Wordnik WOTD on your blog or website, for the entertainment and edification of your readers!

If you’d rather follow the WOTD through RSS you can use this link. (You can also follow us on Twitter for WOTDs, interesting language links, and more.)

We’ve also added a new graph to some word pages—a punctuation profile!


The punctuation profile gives you an idea of how often a word is followed by an exclamation point, a question mark, or a period at the end of a sentence, as compared with the average for all words.

As you can see, an exclamation like hurrah is more likely than average to be followed by an exclamation point, and less likely to be followed by a question mark.

The punctuation profiles are turning up some interesting conundrums: for instance, why is the tally of question marks so high for the word peanut?


(It can’t all be because of Wordnik’s favorite movie…)

We hope you enjoy the words of the day and the punctuation profiles! If you’d like to email us suggestions for future WOTD candidates, you can do so at feedback@wordnik.com.

What Does Your Wordnik Profile Say About You?

What kind of Wordnik are you? Now you can find out by taking a look at your Wordnik profile!

Your Wordnik profile (which is available whenever you’re logged in) shows you (and only you — it’s private) how many words you’ve looked up, and the most recent words you’ve looked up, tagged, left notes about, recorded pronunciations for, and declared to be your favorites!

When you’re logged in, your profile page will help you keep track of cool words you’ve found or the words you frequently misspell.

To find your profile page, click on your username in the upper right-hand corner of the site. (Never logged in? Join today!)

Hap E Wordnik's username

And if you’ve logged in with Facebook Connect, we’ll even show you your user picture (just in case you’ve been spending so much time at Wordnik that you’ve forgotten what you look like).

While putting the profiles together, we thought we identified some Wordnik types …

The Enthusiast: has lots of words marked as favorites. (Enthusiasts like to tweet their new favorites, too!)

The Organizer: has tagged lots of words. Organizers’ tags range from the purely informational (consecutivevowels) to the editorial (funnysounding) to the just plain funny (apersonwhoeatsonlyvegetarians).

The Explainer: leaves a lot of helpful notes. (Or funny notes, which are also helpful in their way.)

The Announcer: records a lot of pronunciations. (Or finds them online and does some kind of prestidigitation to add them to Wordnik. Check out the one by “Vizzini” here.)

Soon we’ll be adding even more information to your profile pages, including your complete browsing history and some fun ways to compare yourself to other Wordniks. (A hint: start trying to score those Wordniks now …)

At Wordnik, our plan is to give you as much information as we can about as many words as we can — and that includes information about your own word use. Please let us know what else you’d like your profile to keep track of for you!

New Stuff at Wordnik!

Over the last few days we’ve added a couple new things to Wordnik that we hope you’ll like — first, autocomplete! (Quite a few people have requested this.) Now, when you start typing in the search box, you’ll see a list of suggestions.

What would you suggest?

We’ve also added a “forms” graph. What’s a forms graph? A forms graph tells you stuff like this:

is it Internet or internet?
In our data, upper-case “Internet” is still slightly more common than lower-case “internet”.

We’ve also started showing you words used in the same contexts as the word you’ve looked up. These are the words that we’ve found to be used in the same contexts as the word wry:

Those who are wry are also ... ?
These are words that aren’t necessarily synonymous, but words that are used in the same way in the same kinds of sentences. Have a word on the tip of your tongue? Check out our same-context list for a word that describes the same kind of thing as the word you can’t think of. Something that is described as wry (like a sense of humor or a comment) might very well also be called sardonic.

At Wordnik, our plan is to give you as much information as we can about as many words as we can — please let us know how useful you find it!

Are you in?

[Velvet Ropes in Storage

Photo by, and licensed from, ..its.magic...

We’ve taken down some of the velvet ropes and are approving user logins again — almost everyone should now be approved within forty-eight hours after signing up. (If you share a name with someone who beat us up in middle school, your login approval may take longer. Possibly much longer.)

We are still requiring logins for a while longer, though, so that we can make sure we can handle the traffic.

Got questions? Leave a comment or email us!