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What Your Facebook Updates Say About Your Age

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For a long time, psychologists have studied how the words people use correlate with characteristics like gender, personality type, and age. They would answer questions like “do older people use more positive words than younger people?” by making lists of words they deemed positive or negative and then counting them up in language samples of people in different age groups. Now researchers have come up with a new way of looking at the relationship between language and social characteristics where the differences between groups are suggested by the data itself, and not by the researchers. Instead of asking whether characteristics (young, old) correlate with words (positive, negative), it asks which words best distinguish these groups from each other?

The technique allows you to find differences you may not have even thought of. But its sophisticated statistical algorithms require massive quantities of text. A 2013 study by H. Andrew Schwartz and colleagues at the Positive Psychology Center of the University of Pennsylvania and the Psychometrics Centre at the University of Cambridge analyzed 15.4 million Facebook messages from 75,000 volunteers who provided information about their gender, age, and personality type (in the form of a standard personality test). As might be expected from Facebook messages, some of the researchers' findings below are NSFW.

Among the insights uncovered were a strong correlation between introversion and Japanese media (“anime,” “manga,” “pokemon”) and a stronger tendency for males to say “my girlfriend/wife” than for females to say “my boyfriend/husband.”

With respect to age, the major concerns of each life stage, unsurprisingly, are represented in the words people use at those stages. These word clouds show the words used in four different age groups. Unlike most word clouds, the size of the word doesn’t indicate how frequent that word is. Rather, it shows how well that word distinguishes that age group from the others. So four life stages might be summed up like this:

13-18: emoticons, school, homework
19-22: profanity, campus, semester, 21st
23-29: at_work, days_off, office, beer, wedding
30-65: family and friends, daughter, son, kids, repost, copy_and

High school kids are talking about school, college kids are swearing and talking about their 21st birthdays, young adults are talking about work, weddings, and beer, and older adults are talking about family and forwarding those “please repost” and “copy and paste” Facebook messages.

Via study

Other graphs tell different types of stories. These plots of the frequency of certain types of words show how negativity seems to decrease with age while positivity increases (confirming previous research on the age-related positivity effect) and how people use “I” less and “we” more as they get older (indicating an increasing focus on social relationships).

Via study

You can explore the age data yourself at the World Well-Being Project site where you can generate a plot for words of your choice. Here are a few that I tried:

For baby, cat, and dog

Looks like pets get a bum deal during the baby-making years, but they get the attention back once the kids are older.

For who, what, where, when, why, and how

Most question words cluster together with big dip in the 20’s. But “why” and “where” break the pattern. Do twentysomethings think they know everything except why? Do people worry more about the facts and less about the reasons as they get older? Why do they stop asking why? Do teenagers not care about where things are happening until they start driving? Are older people forgetting where they left their car keys?

For sucks vs. bummer

The use of anything with a touch of profanity goes down with age, but slang doesn’t necessarily decrease. I thought “bummer” was a young person’s word. Guess I’m showing my age.

For pics vs. pix

Pics at 13, pix at 20, pics at 30, pix at 50. Artefact of people not really settling on one or the other? Or something else? I prefer pics, but it looks like my preferences may soon change.

See Also...

10 Facebook Status Updates Gone Horribly Wrong

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'Puggle,' 'Emoji,' and 298 Other New Words Added to Scrabble Dictionary
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Scrabble aficionados and wordsmiths around the world will soon have some new reading material to bone up on. In celebration of National Scrabble Day today, the makers of the classic word game announced that 300 new words will be added to Scrabble’s official dictionary.

The new words will be published in the sixth edition of Merriam-Webster’s The Official Scrabble Player’s Dictionary, which will be released this fall, according to Mashable.

Here are just a few of the new additions:

Emoji (noun): A small computer symbol used to express emotion
Ew (interjection): Used to express disgust
Facepalm (verb): To cover the face with the hand
Macaron (noun): A cookie with filling in the middle
Puggle (noun): A kind of dog
Sriracha (noun): A spicy pepper sauce

Some players of the 70-year-old game may be surprised to learn that “ew” isn’t already a word, especially considering that Scrabble recognizes more than 100 two-letter words, including “hm” (another expression), “ai” (a three-toed sloth), and “za” (slang for pizza). If played strategically and placed on a triple word square, “ew” can land you 15 points—not bad for two measly letters.

New Scrabble words must meet a few criteria before they’re added to the official dictionary. They must be two to eight letters long and already in a standard dictionary. Abbreviations, capitalized words, and words with hyphens or apostrophes are immediately ruled out.

Peter Sokolowski, editor at large at Merriam-Webster, told Entertainment Weekly, “For a living language, the only constant is change. New dictionary entries reflect our language and our culture, including rich sources of new words such as communication technology and food terms from foreign languages.”

The last edition of the Scrabble dictionary came out in 2014 and included 5000 new words, such as "selfie," "hashtag," "geocache," and "quinzhee."

[h/t Mashable]

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25 Double-Letter Scrabble Words to Have in Your Back Pocket
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The best Scrabble players are the strategic ones who keep adding words to their player vocabulary. Once you've mastered a number of two-letter words and the high-scoring ones (that are admittedly very difficult to play), start looking to double-letter words to take advantage of the multiples on your tile rack.

1. AGLOO

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Don't have an I for IGLOO? Use an A for AGLOO, meaning an air hole through the ice made by a seal.

2. ALLEE

allee
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Instead of an ALLEY, use this double-double-lettered word meaning a tree-lined walkway.

3. BETTA

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Rather than BETA, use that extra T to mean the freshwater fish.

4. BRATTICE

Coal mine
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A BRATTICE now means a heavy curtain or barrier in a mine to help direct air flow, though the medieval meaning was simply a temporary partition along a wall.

5. DRESSAGE

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The fanciest of all horse training and equestrian events, DRESSAGE is the obedience and discipline riding competition, rather than the racing.

6. FUGGY

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To FUG is to make something stuffy or odorous, but its adjective form (FUGGY) and past and present participles (FUGGED, FUGGING) will take care of any extra Gs on the board.

7. GHYLL

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Not only will GHYLL, which is a deep ravine, utilize a double-letter, but it will help if your tile bar is sorely lacking in vowels.

8. GRAAL

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GRAAL is an older form of the word GRAIL, but it's also a technique used in glassblowing.

9. HEELER

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Don't have an A for HEALER? A HEELER is a person who puts heels on shoes (as well as an Australian cattle dog).

10. HELLUVA

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If you're having a HELLUVA time getting rid of a few letters, this nonstandard combination word is actually Scrabble-approved.

11. INNAGE

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INNAGE is the quantity of goods remaining in a container when received after shipment.

12. LARRUP

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To decisively defeat someone or trounce them is to LARRUP.

13. MAMMEE

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Another double-double-letter word, a MAMMEE is species of tropical tree with large red fruit.

14. MOGGY

cats
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A MOGGY or MOGGIES (plural) is the cat equivalent of a mutt.

15. OLLA

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A quick word to tack onto some common board letters, an OLLA is a wide-mouthed pot or jar.

16. OUTTELL

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OUTTELL, OUTTELLS, and OUTTELLING all refer to speaking out or declaring something openly.

17. PERRON

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A PERRON can refer to both large outdoor stairways or the stone platforms of certain columns and edifices.

18. PIGGERY

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You're surely prepared with PIGGY, PIGGIE, and PIGGISH, but a PIGGERY is a pigpen.

19. QUASSIA

Quassia amara
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Score extra points with a well-place Q. A QUASSIA is another tropical tree whose bitter bark is sometimes used as a digestive aid or an insecticide.

20. SCABBLE

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No, not Scrabble. SCABBLE means to shape roughly.

21. TIPPET

tippet
Metropolitan Museum of Art, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

A TIPPET is a covering for the shoulders, or a ceremonial scarf worn by clergy.

22. TYPP

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A TYPP (or TYPPS, plural) is a unit of yarn size. It's an acronym for thousand yards per pound.

23. VALLUM

Vallum at Hadrian's Wall
Optimist on the run, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

The VALLUM was part of the defensive wall of earth and stone surrounding Roman camps.

24. WEEPIE

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While WEEPY is an adjective for tending to weep, a WEEPIE is a very maudlin movie.

25. WELLY

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According to the official Scrabble dictionary, WELLY is an acceptable form of WELLIE, the British rainboots.

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