November 4, 2008

Another request

It would be useful to have a list for every single word in the English language of its comprehensibility, its grade level.

For example, I kicked around the title "The Protean Prince" but rejected it on grounds that nobody would understand it orally (they'd ask, "Why isn't it called 'The Carbohydrate Prince'?"); and not many would understand it on paper either. "Protean" is just too rare a word.

It would be nice to be able to have your concordance of words used matched up against the percent of the population that understand each word.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer


Anonymous said...

Just call him "The Mulatto Prince." That's what he is. I note that his white mother and grandparents did all the work of rearing him and financing his education, but blacks are getting all the credit for producing him. If you look at the lists of "blacks" who achieved something, most of the alleged "blacks" were mulatto or whiter. Many did not even identify with blacks at all or identified as white (Anatole Broyard, Jean Toomer, etc.).

Anonymous said...

steve, i tried to measure this very thing, by seeing how many hits a word generates in google. it was after i read this article:

"100 words every high school graduate should know"

i scored almost perfect on my best effort at the SAT verbal (i took the SAT 6 times between 1990 and 1994, before it was re-centered to make it easier) yet i had never even encountered some of these words.

back when that article first came out, google was finding less than 1000 instances of some of the words on that list.

Anonymous said...

If you copy the text into MS Word or Word Perfect it will give you the reading level.

James said...

You could have given the word a new life.

Anonymous said...

Protean is only a foreign word to folks who've never had Latin or Greek - and that's most of the publicly educated population in the past 30 years.

Anonymous said...

A quick-and-dirty way is to search the NYT online for the word, and see how many articles it appeared in. Then search for "the" and divide by that number -- it will catch all articles put out.

In their search bar, you type in the word, but have to click on "go to advanced search." Then in Date Range, restrict it to the most recent full year (or span of years, just in case the last year was weird).

For "protean," this gives 4.6 x 10^(-4) in 2007. You could just lump things into five grades -- one for each order of magnitude. Or you could take logs or something.

Anonymous said...

This is a much more difficult request than the last one. I'll ask my linguist friend.

Anonymous said...

I think "Protean Prince" would have been worse than what you eventually went with, but not because the word "protean" is too obscure for your audience. I bet the average IQ of your audience is pretty high. We would have understood what you meant. I don't think it would be very realistic though to hope to broaden your audience by much. You're like Ron Paul - right on most things that matter, but doomed to obscurity among the masses anyway. Of course to a large extent you're doomed BECAUSE you're right, so there's a lot to be proud of here. It's just that I don't think that naming the book "Obama's Whack, and I'm Gonna Tell You Why" would have helped its sales much.

Anonymous said...

The real question is why you wrote the book at all, Sailer. I mean a book about a book, come on.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Mark Davies
Is a good source for word frequencies.

Anonymous said...

I prefer Poison Prince. Even the lyrics kind of fit.

A poetic genius,
It's something I don't see.
Why would a genius be trippin' on me?
And he's looking at me now,
But what he can't see,
Is that I'm looking through his eyes,
So many lies behind his eyes.

And tell me stories from your past,
And sing me songs you wrote before.
I tell you this my poison prince,
You'll soon be knockin' on heaven's door

Some kinda poison prince with your eyes in a daze,
Some kinda poison prince your life is like a maze,
And what we all want and what we all crave,
Is an upbeat song so we can dance the night away.

Shining Wit said...


Don't you mean "aurally" not "orally"? Was this a little joke? It would be ironic in the context.

yr pal,

Guts Strongman

Anonymous said...

How about "The P-Funk Prince."

Anonymous said...

SHAPESHIFTER - Shapeshifting is a common theme in mythology and folklore, as well as in science fiction and fantasy. In its broadest sense, it is a metamorphosis (change in the physical form or shape) of a person or animal. Shapeshifting involves physical changes such as alterations of age, gender, race, or general appearance or changes between human form and that of an animal (therianthropy), plant, or inanimate object.

You should have used Shapeshifter in recognition of the government school crowd.

Anonymous said...

Instead of something like "The Democratic Party Prince" how about "The Lemon Party Prince."

Obama's policies seem more in tune with the Lemon Party platform than the Democratic Party.

Anonymous said...

Or how about John Derbyshire's title of "Left from the Beginning" (a play on Pat Buchanan's "Right from the Beginning").

Anonymous said...

geOr how about John Derbyshire's title of "Left from the Beginning" (a play on Pat Buchanan's "Right from the Beginning").

How about "Out of Left Field: The Sinister Prince"?

("Sinister," in this case, being a double-entendre.)

Anonymous said...

Writer's tip: When in doubt, throw it out.

If you are not sure many people would understand something, you are probably right.