Tuesday, February 7, 2012

A Subtle Word that Polarizes

I have said it hundreds of times; I am a numbers guy and really have a tough time working with words. One way that I compensate for my reading and writing deficiencies is by using math and creating a program which I refer to as a “word counter”. Word counters are common and the marketing departments of companies use them religiously. For example, ads are placed on our Facebook pages which match our interests. Originally, I created the program because I was proof reading a lot of technical papers written by engineers who worked for me (yes, this proves that most engineers’ writing skills are poor especially if I am the one doing the editing). In any event, the tool helped me in the editing process. Since I retired, I have expanded the program. Today, I can run long texts through the counter and can determine if the writing is liberal, conservative, polarizing, too technical, etc. For instance, if the words “blame” or “fault” are used numerous times and words such as “solution” are not used, then the writing is most likely polarizing because it one sided.

Interestingly, one word that comes up a lot in polarizing writings is the word “annoy or annoying”. Here is one definition of annoying: “Causing vexation or irritation; troublesome: an annoying cough.” In my day the word annoying was used to describe non-personal nouns such as an annoying sound or annoying pain. Today, this definition, in my opinion, has expanded to be more personal and used to attack people: I find John Steward annoying. In my analysis of the word annoying (and observations), it is commonly used in writings where the words such as fault and blame are also used. In fact, stronger divisive words are often used in connection with the word annoy that I rather not list. The word annoy is more likely to be used by liberals; people with social issues (you know those people who can only communicate via social networking sites) are more likely to use the word annoy; younger people are more likely to use the word annoy; people that are “know it alls” are more likely to use the word annoy; people who use the word annoy are less likely to compromise – very opinionated; and people seem to be less self-aware who use the word annoy.

On the other hand, a word that is used instead of annoying that is more positive and less divisive is the word Frustrating. Here is the definition of frustrating: “To prevent from accomplishing a purpose or fulfilling a desire; thwart: A persistent wind frustrated my attempt to rake the lawn. To cause feelings of discouragement or bafflement. To make ineffectual or invalid; nullify.” The word frustrating is more likely to be used in writings were solutions are proposed. People may find something frustrating, but they will try to find a way to remedy whatever they find frustrating. On the hand, people who find something annoying do not try to resolve or remedy that feeling – instead, they are more apt to simply avoid the situation or make the situation worse by finding blame and fault for the annoyance.

I am sure many may disagree with this analysis of the word annoy, but I would have never have noticed the context of which the word annoyed is being used if I did not use math to analyze writings.

My Book: Is America Dying? (Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble)


  1. DYNAMITE POST, Patrick. When I have more time I will tell you about the computer program created by a former employer that could take this type of analysis a step further.

    And your conclusions are spot-on!

  2. I would really be interested in that Mrs. AL. Thank you.