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We've all heard of some strange studies and ways that researchers spend their energy.

One study in Norway investigated whether wearing wet underwear in the cold was unpleasant.

The study involved only eight men, so it wasn't too scientific. Sorry to ruin the surprise for you, but the guys in the wet underwear were more uncomfortable.

One amazingly curious entomologist allowed honeybees to sting him every day for more than seven weeks so he could discover where bee stings are the most painful. He endured stings on about two dozen body parts. His findings? The most painful places are the nostrils, the upper lip and the male member.

That is one devoted scientist.

In another study, scientists wanted to see whether alcohol increases LDL, called the bad cholesterol. The description of the study was amusing. "Levels of LDL ... rose 20% in mice who spent a weekend binge drinking, compared to mice that consumed no alcohol."

OK, did you picture mice ordering cocktails at a tiny bar? And why did the researchers study only weekend drinking? Does the LDL not go up when the blotto mice hoist a few on Mondays and Tuesdays?

So, yes, research can be weird. Recently, I mentioned the Oxford Dictionary's tally of how many times people looked up certain words. Sure, I took advantage of that fact to write part of a column. But compiling those lists is a strange endeavor, don't you think? I guess it's another quest for knowledge.

After hearing about those strange studies, maybe the study and compilation of word frequency aren't that odd. But I'm still not convinced that humankind gains much from knowing how many times people use words. Is it supposed to apply peer pressure? "Darn, I haven't used the word honeybee in weeks. I need to up my game."

I found a site devoted to this business of word frequency: the Corpus of Contemporary American English. This is why it exists:

"The corpus contains more than 1 billion words of text (25+ million words each year 1990-2019) from eight genres: spoken, fiction, popular magazines, newspapers, academic texts, and (with the update in March 2020: TV and Movies subtitles, blogs, and other web pages)."

Also, it says its compilation offers "unparalleled insight" into variations in the English language. The site has all sorts of search options. You can find out what 60,000 words people use most frequently, and how often each has been used. You'll get each word's definition, pronunciation and part of speech. You can search for a word to find all the times it has been used in sentences all over the place. I typed in highfalutin and read that it appeared only 183 times. It was found in venues from National Geographic to CNN, "The Sopranos" to "Curb Your Enthusiasm," a book titled "Killing Mister Watson" and one called "Kiss the Girls." (I wonder whether highfalutin made it into the movie "Kiss the Girls.")

My editor had doubts about some of the numbers. She was right to be skeptical. Highfalutin showed up about 171 times in The Washington Post alone from 2007 to 2020. It appears in 267 articles in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette archives, beginning with a mention by the Arkansas Gazette in 1859. So don't rely on the totals when you feel the urge to use the popular words.

According to this site, the 10 most frequently used words in English are: the, be, and, a, of, to, in, I, you, it.

No surprises there. You can click on icons next to the words to get audios, videos and images. One part will even help you translate the word into dozens of other languages.

OK, I'm feeling less cynical about that site. But if you check it out, be prepared to go down a rabbit hole at least 100 times deeper than any other rabbit hole you've fallen into.


I was researching potassium lately, so that I could get more of it. I found a site that said, "The human body contains about 50 mmol potassium per kg body weight."

Well, I've heard of kg. That's an abbreviation for kilogram. I'm not a metric expert, but I at least know that 1 kilogram equals about 2.2 pounds.

But mmol? That stands for millimole. I know the milli means 1,000th, but what is a mole?

The American Heritage Dictionary provided me lots of information, but I didn't understand much of it.

The mole is, "in the International System, the base unit used in representing an amount of a substance, equal to the amount of that substance that contains as many atoms, molecules, ions, or other elementary units as the number of atoms in 0.012 kilogram of carbon-12. The number is 6.0221 × 1023, or Avogadro's number."

I looked up Avogadro's number, which is "the number of items in a mole."

Well, I guess I didn't really want to know what a mole was anyway. I've gone all these decades without running into that kind of mole.

I was able to retain that the abbreviation for a mole is mol, though that shortening doesn't seem terribly useful.

But I was interested to read that the word mole has the same roots as molecule, which is logical. The two words share mole, which is Latin for mass.


One pizza place claims that no other chain can outpizza it.

Is pizza a verb now? I pizza, you pizza, we all pizza? They outpizza.

No, it is not.

Sources include Live Science, The Healthy, the Corpus of Contemporary American English, the American Heritage Dictionary. Reach Bernadette at

[email protected]

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