Words to Live By

Joy to the world. Happy birthday. Good times. Scientists at the University of Vermont recently went to great effort to catalogue one hundred billion words in 10 different languages. (Some of us spend our time collecting stamps or coins.) For their study, they used a wide variety of word sources, including song lyrics, books, movie subtitles and even Tweets.

Every single word from the billions gathered was individually sorted on a scale of 1-9. Positive-sounding words like “laughter” were assigned a high score, and negative words like “terrorist” were at the bottom. Neutral words like “the” and “truck” got a score in the middle.

After the scores were averaged, the researchers came up with this uplifting conclusion: Every language is skewed to the positive. Or, as eloquently summarized by the mathematician who co-led the study: “[We] use more happy words than sad words.”

Fun fact: This theory was actually put forth in 1969 by University of Illinois psychologists, who called it the Pollyanna Hypothesis, but didn’t have much proof to back their proposal.

The University of Vermont researchers found their results to be universal across all 10 languages (although Spanish sources turned out to be the most positive, and Chinese the least. I’m not jumping to any conclusions, so you shouldn’t either).

It’s nice to know that no matter what language we speak, and whether we’re writing books, composing songs or tweeting about the utterly mundane, humans tend to look on the bright side of life.

Note: The above blog post contains a minimum of 77% happy words… and is fat- and sugar-free.

One response to “Words to Live By

  1. Pingback: Happy Twits | 50 Good Deeds

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