Since you asked…. March 13

2 April 2013 by Alex Brown, posted in blogging, since you asked...

Credit: Master isolated images /

In this monthly series, I'm answering the questions that turn up in the search terms people use before ending up on this blog.

Last month's installment is here. Below are my readers' FAQs for March 2013.




False friends:

A few people likely ended up on my post introducing the notion of "false friends". These are words in different languages which look or sound as if they might have a similar meaning, but don't. People used words like:

false friends introduction

Others were looking something more specific, such as:

false friends polish  list

Although a few commenters gave examples of Polish-English and Polish-Czech false friend pairs, I'd hardly call it a list so far. (Though hopefully the latter will have been useful to whoever searched for "czech polish false friends"!)

By the way, thanks again to everyone who has been commenting on my posts. It really means a lot to me that you take the time to answer my questions so we can all learn and explore more ideas together (aw, how nice - group hug?). While we're on the subject of crowd-sourced linguistics, could anyone help whoever was searching for this?

french-greek false friends

Has anyone got any examples of these? Leave them in the comments below...

There was also someone looking for

scientific expressions english false friends

This is something I will cover in a future post, so it's nice to see that my plans line up with what people are already looking for!

On the other hand, using "false friends" so prominently as a metaphor also leads to some sadder thoughts, such as those by this Internet surfer:

i only had false friends

Hopefully this person now has real friends...

[Aside: in all seriousness, bullying is a big deal. If you are being bullied, there are people willing and able to help. It gets better.]

What I'm Tolkien about:

now that's what i'm tolkien about перевод

Whoever searched for this must have come across my post comparing learning languages to destroying the Ring of Power in The Lord of The Rings. Yes, really. And no, I don't know why I wrote it either, but there it is.

The final word in the search string uses the Cyrillic alphabet. It's Russian for "translation". How appropriate.

Incidentally, if you're interested in Russian, check out this guest post on my other blog. That post features a few examples of false friends, too!


The periodic table:

The periodic table: more questions than answers?

Several people were asking questions about the periodic table, doubtless ending up on my post about hydrogen. It's the first of a series looking into the names of each of the elements. One person asked a particularly good question:

where did the periodic table get its name

I promise to write a post about the origin of the name of the periodic table itself, though it might have to wait until I get to element number 101, mendeleevium.

Similar search terms were:

elements named after how they behave


Huh? / Other:

Some search terms were only tangentially related to the actual content of my posts. Such is the power of the internet, I guess. Here are some of my favourites:

upgoer five

Upgoer five is a fun text editor for trying to remove jargon from your writing. I did mention it briefly in this post, but only in passing. For more information you should really be reading this, this or this, which is what I was linking to in the first place.

It looks like some search terms are hybrids of others, so this one...

analogy for not remembering dreams

...could have led the searcher to any of my posts about analogies (there are several), or the one in which I mention dreaming in a foreign language. I hope they found whatever they found to be interesting.


Such mish-mashed search terms can lead to some real "huh?!" moments when I'm browsing through my statistics. The prize for weirdest search term on DYSS for March 2013 goes to whoever was looking for:

gollum speciation

Gollum features quite heavily in my very silly extended analogy post about The Lord of the Rings. Speciation turns up in my post about false friends, where I compare languages to species. As for the real meaning of "Gollum speciation", I have no idea...


Meanwhile, I have sneakily included a few terrible puns in my posts, which search engines seem to want to serve up to potential readers. Many search terms included the words:

terrible puns

The cheekiest one so far is my notion of being pi-lingual, because I speak 3-and-a-bit languages. That one pun formed the basis of an entire post for Pi Day, though hopefully there is enough real content in there that you will forgive me. Right?

There's also a fairly predictable pun about how incomprehensible the many types of yoghurt are to me, but again I'm hoping that the linguistic nature of the pun and the rest of the post have at least some compensation value.


On top of my blatant word-based puns, I also snuck one in as a picture... can you find it in this post? The caption seems to be the answer to lots of people's searches when they came here looking for:

what country has a plus on their flag


Of course, there were other search terms leading here last month, many of which were similar to those above. As well as the clone terms, I've left out those which were just repeats of the previous month's highlights, and a few that were just plain boring.

What will we see in April? I expect to write about helium, stars, meningitis ... all with a linguistic twist of course. Watch this space!


Over to you:

  • What weird or unusual search terms have led readers to your blog?
  • Have you searched for something odd online recently? What did you find?
  • Have any of your recent searches taken you somewhere unexpected? Where was it, did you discover something new?
  • What have you enjoyed reading on this blog so far? What do you want to see more of this month?

9 Responses to “Since you asked…. March 13”

  1. Reed Reply | Permalink

    Douglas Hofstadter also describes himself as pilingual; you're in good company! If you don't know him he writes a lot about science, language and the brain; his book Gödel Escher Bach is particularly good. Another of his books, "Le Ton beau de Marot", is all about translation and the difficulties of translation, I haven't read it but it looks like it'd be up your alley (especially since you speak both English and French)!

    • Alex Brown Reply | Permalink

      Of course someone else got there first. I've only heard bits and pieces about Hofstadter before, so thanks for the extra recommendation. I'll look into his books, they sound fascinating.

  2. sedeer Reply | Permalink

    Great idea for a post! I might steal it, if you don't mind...

    Looking through searches that have recently landed folks on my blog, I was amused to find "why do women in different areas like different guys?". It's probably because I tend to write about gender & sexism; I'm guessing it led someone to my "Why do men and women want different things?" post -- probably not what they were looking for.

    I also got a visit from someone asking "who is an inspirational scientist?", a question my blog doesn't directly answer (despite its title). I think many of the scientists I've met (or read) are inspirational, but I think the question might mean "inspirational" in a broader sense. Off the top of my head:Carl Sagan & Stephen Jay Gould. (David Attenborough, though inspirational, isn't a scientist.)

    Several interesting searches led viewers to my post "Debating our ancestors' sex lives". Two that were strange enough to make me smile: "did our ancestors have group sex?" and "interbreeding with our ancestors". Maybe I should title my posts with a little more care? Or maybe not....

    • Alex Brown Reply | Permalink

      Feel free to write your own, though of course a link back would be appreciated. Those are some great examples you have. Of course, most people who don't find what they are looking for will be disappointed. But maybe a fortuitous few will find something unexpected and fascinating...

  3. David James Reply | Permalink

    I've tried to deliberately capture some people by using titles. I get a fair few hits for "Homeopathy for homosexuality" by people searching for that and similar terms. The oddest couple I've had are probably (and there are some odd ones!) "how to pronounce chakra shakra or ch" and "are all homeopaths gay". Neither of which I've directly addressed, but they are words I've mentioned. SEO is a funny thing!

    • Alex Brown Reply | Permalink

      Deliberately provocative titles can be a vital hook to get people to read something. It's a subtle art to distinguish between "optimizing" and "spam", however. My other (older, more established) blog also has a few odd ones...

  4. elkement Reply | Permalink

    Thanks, Alex! You remind me of an important monthly deadline I had nearly missed!
    Currently the top search term on my blog is: "Gyroscopes are magic". And there are some classics - such as "irony practice" or "nostalgia theory".

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