Thursday, December 23, 2010

Google plots popularity of favored Carolinas terms

If you haven't tried the Google Ngram Viewer, you're missing out on a word-geek treat. Its a database of all the words in five million books published since the 16th century. You can plug words or phrases in and get a chart showing how popularity of the word waxes and wanes over the centuries. I plugged in a bunch of Carolinas words just to see what happens. Here's what I found:

  • Piedmont -- Except for one surge around 1670 (the year English settlers landed at Charleston), the word was virtually invisible until the 1880s. Usage reached its highest level in the 1940s, and has fallen since then.
  • Carolina -- Usage surged briefly around 1670, but began rising dramatically around the time of the Civil War. After about 1940, it trended generally downward until the 1980s, when it rose moderately again.
  • Moonshine -- Perhaps not surprisingly, usage zips upward around 1919, when the Prohibition era began.
  • Fish camp -- Not used much until the 20th century. Usage spiked around 2000.
  • Tarheel -- First came into print in the late 19th century; usage increased dramatically after 1920.
  • Barbecue -- First crept into print around 1750, but didn't gather steady momentum until about a century later. Usage gradually increased until the 1980s, when it skyrocketed.
Why do you think these words took off in print when they did? Got any other good Carolina words you'd want to plug in?

Monday, December 20, 2010

What's the most mispronounced name in Charlotte?

One of the best things about social networks (or worst, if you're a Facebook-hater) is the ability to take funny little "things that make you go hmmm...." snippets of everyday life and share them with the world. The folks at Wingate University recently had a little fun by making a YouTube video poking fun at the fact that people can't settle on one correct pronunciation for their school's title, and for the town it's named after. Is it Win-GATE or Win-GIT?

When I first moved to the Charlotte area, I lived in Rock Hill, where I quickly got reprimanded by locals when I pronounced the name of nearby town of Sharon as if it were the popular woman's name. Nope, they told me, it's SHAY-run. When I pronounced the name of nearby Lancaster County as you would the actor Burt Lancaster, I got corrected again. It's LANK-a-stir, they told me.

There's a ton of similarly weird name spellings/pronunciations around the region. Which ones are your favorites?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Facebook lists hottest status updates of 2010

Guess what the hottest trend in status updates was for 2010? Use of the phrase "HMU." If you're only marginally hip (like me), explanations are probably in order. That stands for "hit me up." (And if you're terminally unhip, "hit me up" means "contact me."). Apparently lots of people were using Facebook as the starting point for -- dare I say it -- person-to-person communications. Pretty cool, if you ask me.

Check out the rest of the list of top status updates here.

What was your favorite status update meme of 2010?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Charlotte's hottest Google searches of 2010

Google this morning released its list of top Google searches for the year in various cities around the country. Charlotte's "Google Zeitgeist" list came out looking a lot like our national reputation -- all business.

Here's what was on Charlotte Google searchers' minds in 2010:

  • UNCC moodle
  • UNCC email
  • Parent assist
  • CPCC email
  • CATS bus schedule
  • Charlotte restaurant week
  • Charlotte half off
  • Showmars menu
So, Charlotte's Googlers were education-minded folks who ride the bus, do a lot of business at the Charlotte Mecklenburg Credit Union and love to eat -- especially at Showmars. (The "moodle," by the way, is an online classwork management system UNCC professors can use to deliver quizzes and assignments. "Parent assist" is the school system's online system where parents can track their kids' grades).

This isn't a completely reliable reading of what locals are seeking on the Internet. Local folks probably go to Facebook more often than any of these sites, but most wouldn't do a Google search to get there.

What do you think? What was your most-used search term of the year?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Local schools win big in social media contest

Looks like Metrolina Christian Academy in Indian Trail and Charlotte's Collinswood Language Academy have become the latest local schools to win big in a national social media contest. Metrolina took the grand prize of $50,000 in the Clorox Power a Bright Future contest, while Collinswood won a $20,000 grant.

The contest was designed to let parents and teachers across the country nominate school sports, music and arts programs that have been hit hard by budget cuts. Supporters voted online. Metrolina will put its money toward a new athletics complex, while Collinswood will upgrade its playground.

The Charlotte Jewish Day School learned earlier this fall that it had won $500,000 in a Facebook contest by Kohl's department store.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Facebook's changing your page again

Facebook's made changes to people's pages again, so that of course means some users are feeling unsettled and grumpy this morning. This time, it's the profile page they're tinkering with. (Actually, they're being smart about it for once and giving users a chance to opt into it themselves first. Click here to try the new layout now). It's designed to be more visual, with pictures of you and your friends more prominently placed. It plays up photos of friends you connect with the most. And it's designed to make your "Interests" section more visual and prominent, and more socially connected.

Jason Keath, founder of the Charlotte-born Social Fresh marketing conferences, blogged last night about how he discovered that it also lets friends edit your interests. He plays tennis, and a friend he plays with added "tennis" to the "Sports I Play" section on Jason's profile. Depending on how you've got your privacy settings arranged, it might be possible for your friends to add stuff to your profile, too.

Closest I've come to that so far is when I got a message last night saying a co-worker had updated his profile to show that he worked at the Observer with me and a bunch of other folks. I'd already had the Observer listed in my own profile as my employer. Now he shows up in there as someone I work with. My hunch is that, even if I hadn't already put the Observer as my employer, his update would have added the Observer to my profile.

It's another move by Facebook to become a more accurate online mirror of your social connections, values and interests. That naturally makes Facebook more appealing to advertisers. So, as much as Mark Zuckerberg talks about giving people more of what they want -- socialization -- it's hard not to be a little cynical and see this freshening-up of the profile page as an enticement to get more data on people's interests and values added to profiles, either by users themselves, or by their friends.

That said, I don't really know that I mind it all that much. I do like knowing what my friends (and general acquaintances) value. We all do. But as Jason rightfully notes, this does bring with it the possibility for abuse. Teenagers who tend to friend everybody at their schools look like the most likely victims. But I suspect this change will accomplish what Facebook wants. As queasy as we all get over the possible privacy implications, our social urge seems to have gotten the better of us for now. That's why Zuckerberg's sitting on a gold mine at 26.

Friend me on Facebook, and let me know what you think.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Kids getting cellphones at younger ages

Quick, take a guess: what's the average age American kids are getting their first cellphones? 10? 12? 14?

According to data out today from the Pew Internet & American Life Project, most are 12 or 13. But hold on, there, before you go ripping the phone from your 10-year-old's fingers. According to Pew, while none of the 17-year-olds in the survey got phones when they were 11 or younger, more than half of today's 12-year-olds had phones when they were 11 or younger.

So, the times are a'changing, and it appears most parents today think it's ok to give their kid a phone by the time they turn 11. What do you think? When did your kid get his or her first phone? Are 11-year-olds mature enough to have cellphones?