It’s over a year old but I keep thinking of the article Dead Plagiarists Society. It discusses how google books revealed some interesting patterns of plaigiarism among 19th century authors. The thing that impressed me most was when the author asked: "…don’t people accidentally repeat each other’s sentences all the time? It seems to me that this should not be unusual. Yet try plugging that last sentence word by word into Google Book Search, and watch what happens." The results are startling:
"It: Rejected—too many hits to count
It seems: 11,160,000 matches
It seems to: 3,050,000
It seems to me: 1,580,000
It seems to me that: 844,000
It seems to me that this: 29,700
It seems to me that this should: 237
It seems to me that this should not: 20
It seems to me that this should not be: 9
It seems to me that this should not be unusual: 0
It seems to me that this should not be unusual is itself … unusual. "
Before reading this article it never occurred to me that such a simple phrase might be so rare. Even among so many billions of sentences something as unremarkable had not been recorded before. Style is more of a marker than I used to think.
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