Googlewhack: The Search for 'The One'
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Google and Answers.com Esslessness  

Note: Really, really don't e-mail me every word you find with, or without, an "s" at the end. Really. Thanks.

2005-02-25 13:00 UTC  Beginning early on 2005-02-24, and continuing now for at least 24 hours, Google thinks, that Answers.com thinks, that there are no (or very, very few) English words ending in a single letter "s".

2005-02-25 19:00 UTC  A brief update from our primary contact at Google:
"That seems suboptimal. :) It may take a few days, but I feel that we can make obvious a word again. :)"
...assuring once again that the value of the Googlewhacking community is... obvious :-)

2005-02-25 20:00 UTC Thi i hilariou:
An anonymou tyrannosauru left behind some scrumptiou debri.
Did you mean "ridiculou"?

2005-03-10 13:30 UTC Crisis resolved. Agent Smith reports:
uranous tooted     Nuts! Just when I got used to whacking without the "s".
Please return to your assigned workplace, and resume whacking...



Possible explanations, from least to most paranoid and grandiose:
  1. Things don't always work just the way you'd like!
  2. Google has a temporary index glitch, and they're working on it... please stay tuned...
  3. Increasing loads are breaking Google -- since it's the only site most people ever use :-)
  4. At Google's heart, the regex !^(?i)[a-z]+\s*$ has lost a slash, banning all pluralization!
  5. Google knows "more" is not better, and that plurals encourage a profligate Western lifestyle...
Since the first Googlewhack days, Google offered live links to Dictionary.com for most legitimate words. As enshrined in Rule Number One, links in the blue bar atop Google results are a requirement for entry to The Whack Stack. Dictionary.com displayed its share of glitches and misspellings, and apparently recognized some word forms by rule, leading to -- shall we say -- free and often suspect pluralizations. Ah well, all the better to whack with, my dear!

Late on 2005-01-27, Google changed from Dictionary.com to Answers.com. Long-time whackers took this as a sign of The End Times, and complained bitterly. Then, realizing many new words had appeared (bouncebackability and allyourbasearebelongtous come to mind), they switched merely to mocking Answers.com. Eventually, they realized that "Googlewhack" also was an accepted, linked word, and found peace. That is, until they realized the days of liberal pluralization were gone.

No need to go into great detail; a few examples suffice. Gone were "godmothers" and "godfathers" -- you can have only one? -- and every other step-, grand-, and regular old -thers and -sters in the whole famn damily. Good whacking technique demands many variations on each word, so this dries up the pool a bit.

Yesterday, however (2005-02-24) saw a new low, when (according to Google's view of Answers.com), most words ending in "s" ceased to exist. Again, a few examples make the point. Nothing is delicious (11M pages). No one is anxious (6M). This may be because no one has a penis (24M). In apparent response to GOP fiscal irresponsiblity, nothing remains gratis (131M). Some fail to see the obvious (28M), that Genesis (16M) is not in conflict with physics (56M). Alas! (5M)

As Agent Smith pointed out in The Whack Stack:
   eviscerating horsefeather  Answers.com, now 50% less fun for whacking.  :-(
   zaniness answerability     Answers.com answer to this is: duhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.
   answerability stumper      Ironically, "answers" isn't a word, either.
In fact, many of the regulars weighed in:
   wackiest suffixing         Well, let' see: it appear that no word are allowed to end in a single . RH Hobos (oops.)
   freakishly brainsick       no plurals is/are making me mad   Drayce
   whacking ferventness       well, i just did (whack ferventness)....  Drayce
   plurally blacklisted       adding esses was my biggest whack crutch....sob now i'm a crip..Drayce
   quaalude sibilance         too chilled to annunciate... zzzz   JB, UK
   unbroken suffixion         I always heard: If it aint broke, don't fix it. WE WANT OUR ESSES BACK! -R.H. Hobo
   answerably obtuseness      Not One Jot
   poormouthing answerable    answer(s).com is totally out of whack!   windycity
   cloistering answerability  ghaah...can't...breath...chok..ing.......   Drayce s..es.esses.ssss hahaha
   pluralizing unholiness     Not One Jot
   dispossessor finesse       What kind of monster would dispose of all final esses?   R.H. Hobo
   uninsurability erasing     my policy has no coverage for loss of esses   windycity
   poormouthed bush           1: why w commands no hooman language> 2: why this whack = an analytic truth. Munro v B
Well, that last one, that's Munro, just always worth quoting. Joan in Austin aptly noted, though:
answerableness inexplicably     Sure it's frustrating not to find plurals, but answers.com is fond of "-ness".
You can still floss, pass a jackass, or mess around in class. Two esses: good.

However, as a reminder to those seeking true enlightenment:
   You will not find it in your cars (124M),
   You will not find it in your bars (42M).
   You should not look in pots (7M) or pans (5M),
   or shots (24M) or cans (5M), or plots (10M) or plans (126M).
   Especially not Republicans (8M).
This sequence is revealing (See Note)
  • -rs fails
  • -ss works
  • -ts fails
Searchy, crypty, lexicography types will tell you that when you need to flatten out distribution for filing purposes, you may do well to look things up in reverse. That is, spell from right to left instead of left to right. Many problems (and statistical bumps) remain, but it's a piece of the puzzle. I suspect that the little bit of Google (whether it's a single array in a sliver of memory or a cluster of 30 machines in an undisclosed location) is not available. It's the part that looks up definitions for words that start (read "end") with "s".

Either that, or there's one line of code somewhere at Google with a bad bit in it :-)
 

E-mail snippets on the topic of Answers.com and Esslessness
Danny Sullivan had reported on Google plans to change to, and their completion of the switch to, Answers.com on 2005-01-27.
Subject: Google offers new Answers
   Date: Fri, 28 Jan 2005 08:31:16 -0500
   From: Gary Stock 

I normally receive reports from experienced whackers whenever GW results
become flaky, even briefly.  Rarely does an hour pass without one of the
old hands stacking -- and if they can't stack, they let me know! 

So, yes, Whack (from here in Kalamazoo) stopped recognizing Google's
word definition links around 2005-01-27 22:50 EST -- so I'd say someone
threw the BigIP switch -- or something similar -- somewhere.

In subsequent days, I received several media inquiries about how the change affected Googlewhackers. Please note the citrus-sweet tang of lemonade being made.
Subject: Re: Media Query: Answers.com's effect on Googlewhacking
   Date: Mon, 31 Jan 2005 22:00:43 -0500
   From: Gary Stock 
 
Of course, Answers provides an array of new definitions ("mcjobs" and
"googlewhack" itself are now accepted terms), trademarks (I just saw
"gonorrheic walmart" and "ungodlier mcdonalds" go by), and proper names
(permitting silly bits like, "schwarzenegger protohuman," or "nimoy
turgidness: Spock was unfazed by Nurse Chapel's choice of tunics... but
Leonard was only human!").  So, we march on toward 500,000...

Longtime participants complained about the apparently lax standards for inclusion at Answers.com (which most other folks would never notice, or welcome as a larger vocabulary).
Subject: Re: UnBlinking Googlewhack
   Date: Mon, 31 Jan 2005 07:02:35 -0500
   From: Gary Stock 

> Please, please, couldn't you get us back to Dictionary.com?

Not my decision:  all Google...


> You've probably noticed some of today's plaintive cries.
> 
> What about the misspelling that someone found?  Answers just isn't as
> reliable.

Here are the first three bogus hits I noted from dictionary.com 

   ssociable
   semiiannual
   overdtive

...and that's among well over thirty... that I _noticed_.

It's Googlewhack, not Dictionarywhack; we just plays 'em as we sees 'em.

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