Friday, December 27, 2013

Curious search terms

Every year I summarise some of the more interesting search engine queries which brought people to this blog. There aren’t as many as in previous years because increasingly the specific query is no longer listed. I suspect this may be the last time I’ll be able to present this summary, which is a shame.

Perhaps it says something about my own reviewing style that a significant number of queries display a definitely categorical stance. These searchers are looking for something which reinforces their preconceptions and, one suspects, no alternative view will be tolarated. Poor James Fenimore Cooper comes in for stick. At completely different times, and from different places, there was:

last of the mohicans terrible book
last of the mohicans awful book
More modern writers also cop for criticism:
i disagree with william golding
why yann martel is a bad writer
Not everyone is so dogmatic, although their prejudices still manage to shine through:
bored with thus spake zarathustra
anybody not love gilead
At least the first searcher used "bored with" rather than the now ubiquitous "bored of". As usual, there are some searchers who are probably writing essays. In the second example here, the specific question the searcher has been set is obvious:
explain boneland by alan garner
what would be a symbol for the blindness by jose saramago
One feels for the poor student frantically skimming The Great Gatsby for the following quote. This would be one instance when it would be best if they had worked backwards:
when does it say nobody came in the great gatsby
And again there is a worrying lack of knowledge of their subject coming through. One fears for the grades of students who make the following searches:
outer darkness cormac mccormack
gilead/marilynne williamson
books that john steinbeck wrote
reviews the old service alan garner
At a certain period after their deaths, all writers tend to suffer a dip in popularity. In the case of Walker Percy, it may be happening now:
lancelon walker percy
is lancelon by walker percy second person point of view
It’s curious that two identical mis-spellings of Lancelot should occur. Again, these were at different times and from different locations. And Lancelon seems a lot less obvious than the actual title. You'd have thought it would be easier to get it right. Next we have this splendidly framed question, wrong in just about every respect and demonstrating perfectly the concept of the question for which the answer is unequivocally no:
was bartleby a conformists?
The lack of knowledge of the subject matter searchers are researching isn’t restricted to literature. Since Donald is a hero of mine, I particularly liked this one:
who plays Donald duck
As ever, sex provided a number of entry points (oo er missus) to the blog. Mostly, I am utterly perplexed why Google should send such enquirers towards my wholly dull and sexless blog:
debona ir blog .com/hom mad sex
straight wankers.blogspot.com
girls naked fighting each other
sex.animalise.dot.com
I suspect this one may refer to the famous Bates and Reed wrestling scene from Women in Love, but I’m fairly sure I’ve never mentioned either actor or the film itself on here, so why the searcher was sent here is baffling:
two naked men fight for a woman
At least this searcher seems to have a slightly higher-brow approach to the subject, judging by the invocation of the German philosopher. Or maybe he just confuses the letter u with the letter a...
kant sex
And it’s good to see that modern-day students have the same conscientious approach to both study and recreation that they did in my day:
literature related chat up lines
In this case, I do know why they were directed to my blog, because I have a series of great chat-up lines from Dostoevsky. I do hope the searcher didn’t use any of them, though, because they’re examples of how not to chat up a woman, like this example from The Gambler:
"Why or how I have come to love you I do not know. It may be that you are not altogether fair to look upon. Do you know, I am ignorant even as to what your face is like. In all probability, too, your heart is not comely, and it is possible that your mind is wholly ignoble."
Some searchers have at least raised their sights higher. This one is commendably specific:
blog do government censor spoleto festival art in charleston sc
While this one is a bit too generalised:
enlightenment hubris
If that searcher was looking for something to reinforce that concept they would be sorely disappointed by this blog, since I spend most of my time on here refuting that particularly stupid piece of anti-human prejudice. Those who espouse that sort of rubbish conveniently refer to our creation of weapons of mass destruction without ever mentioning that, in the same period of time, we also found cures for disease and invented technologies to improve the lot of the whole of humankind. But this returns us to where we began: so often people seem to search for material that reinforces rather than challenges their beliefs. And that is sad.

Finally, the influence of predictive texting made its presence known with this offering:

briefing on a descent i to he'll review
It will be a shame if there aren’t sufficient specific queries next year to produce another round-up like this. I always enjoy these. I hope you do too.

Anyway, Hogmanay is nearly upon us, so stock up on your black bun and your lumps of coal and your hip flasks of whisky and get ready to indulge in a fine pagan festival of community and solidarity. A guid new year ain and a'.

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