[Corpora-List] Numpties and bennies: Google searches as linguistic evidence

Ramesh Krishnamurthy r.krishnamurthy at aston.ac.uk
Thu Dec 7 13:08:00 CET 2006

Hi Diana
Sorry about the brevity of my previous email.
I didn't mean to be rude, just in a hurry as usual...

But I was raising a genuine concern of mine. An experience last year:
challenged in
my daughter's school playground by 2 mothers who had heard of my
involvement with
writing dictionaries, I was asked to resolve their dispute: "is
unpunctual a word, can I
say unpunctual".

It was not listed in any of the printed 6 or 7 native-speaker (US and UK) and
learner's dictionaries I looked at. There were 15 occurrences in Bank
of English (5 in British
Magazines, 4 in Independent, and a few one-offs), so below the normal
threshold for inclusion
in Cobuild at the time.

But I found 4320 hits on Google (43,100 today!
- so has its usage increased, or has Google's trawl just got
bigger?), mostly entries in
online dictionaries (based on each other?)... but also 9000+ for
impunctual, 5000 for non-punctual,
500 for nonpunctual, 400 for contrapunctual, 11 for apunctual, and 7
for anti-punctual...

When I looked closer at the hits, most of the hits for impunctual
were from a 1913 USA dictionary,
most of the hits for non(-)punctual were (technical use) from
linguistics texts, and
most hits for contrapunctual were from music texts.

So I told the mothers that unpunctual was a valid word form
(ie created according to valid derivational rules)
but that it wasn't very widely used.

PS I've just noticed a discussion on unpunctual at


At 09:36 07/12/2006, Diana Maynard wrote:

>Yes, I should have been more explicit, I didn't mean in all cases!



>Ramesh Krishnamurthy wrote:


>>>>I guess this demonstrates the power of the internet over the BNC

>>>>as a corpus.....


>>For rare events, events post-1994, and events beyond British

>>English, perhaps...

>>There's still the problem of reliability...

Ramesh Krishnamurthy

Lecturer in English Studies, School of Languages and Social Sciences,
Aston University, Birmingham B4 7ET, UK
[Room NX08, North Wing of Main Building] ; Tel: +44 (0)121-204-3812 ;
Fax: +44 (0)121-204-3766

Project Leader, ACORN (Aston Corpus Network): http://corpus.aston.ac.uk/
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