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Love Thematics

If “love makes the world go round”—and we now mean the kind St. Valentine’s day celebrates—this fact (it occurred to us) should be reflected in the world’s literature in some objectively traceable way. A method for testing the hypothesis occurred to us, namely a check of Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations. We undertook a kind of rough-and-ready statistical test by looking at the index of our 16th edition. The method? Count—and only count—columns in the index in which only the specified word appears as a heading, and no other. Using this technique, we discovered the following.

          Term No. columns
          God 10
          Life 11
          Love 14
          Woman 3
          Man 14

Here the high count for Man and the low count for Woman surprised us—but in the past “man” stood for humanity generally, never mind that most of the authors recorded have been men—and thinkers rather than lovers. Just to make sure we weren’t missing any big categories, the same rough-and-ready method was applied (passive tense to achieve a certain scientific respectability here) to the rest of the index. We discovered that Good and Heart, both with 5 columns, made a decent bid for prominence. Evil flunked out with but a single column. Our conclusion is that Love triumphs if only Man can be held to proper account. But such accounting would involve us in more labor than the festivities of St. Valentine’s Day permit, namely individually reading and judging 14 columns’ worth of entries and classifying each into the human category or one that refers to man-the-male alone. And the tedium of that made us desist from such Foolishness. (That last word, by the way,  has a single entry, not even a column, so we feel justified).

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One Response

  1. Very clever, indeed!

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