March 06, 2005

Google usage

I'm fond of McSweeney's. For example, the article currently featured on the web site is Chris Gavaler's "Who's on First?", which is pretty funny in a quiet sort of way. And many of the things on the new lists page are also funny. But when I read Adam Koford's list of "Adjectives rarely used by wine tasters", I was skeptical. After a series of posts last summer on the language of wine tasting and similar enthusiasms, I retain a sort of general sense of what kind of descriptions wine aficionados are likely to use, and I was pretty sure that Adam had not pushed the envelope nearly far enough.

So I checked with Google. Adam's first "rarely used" adjective is chunky -- but {chunky wine} has 208,000 web hits on Google, most of which seem to just the sort of thing that Adam thinks shouldn't come up. Nine out of the first ten, for example:

From the hot 2003 vintage in Europe, this is a chunky wine that is perfect for your mid-week meals with our Own Pasta and Meat Sauce with Roasted Eggplant and Peppers as a side dish.
A well structured, chunky wine with hints of figs and raisins.
A big, chunky wine that is typical of the Okahu style.
A solid, chunky wine with a Vogel's toast nose, lashings of creamy, rich fruit through the middle and a savoury finish.
Chewy, big chunky wine with a lot of tannin.
Chunky, tarry, spicy wine. ... Firm tannins, however not slaughtered by oak and despite its chunky and rustic nature, it was a tasty wine with this dish.
As for a "Chunky wine" [...] That would mean young,huge tannins, toasty oak and a big finish...almost "Chewy".
The Amarone, a proverbially big and chunky wine, had died in the bottle.
This is a nice savoury, chunky wine that's drinking beautifully now.

Made with extra thick glass, this chunky wine goblet is a durable and versatile choice for casual entertaining.

Adam's second "rarely used" adjective is super-charged -- but {super-charged wine} has 37,800 whG. Again, nine of the first ten hits are just what Adam doesn't expect:

This was the third time I had encountered Chateau Angelus, a massive, super-charged wine that just seems more monolithic each time I taste it.
Leonetti winemaker Gary Figgins has it down, blending his best selections from the Seven Hills, Windrow and Spring Valley vineyards into this super-charged wine.
Huge and thick with fruit on the palate, this super-charged wine is impeccably well balanced, with fine focus, ripe tannins, and a long, complex, tidal wave of a finish.
Wow! This is like a supercharged Rhone.
From a newish estate in South Africa, this has a striking, paint-box colour of vivid purple and intense aromas of super-charged blackcurrant and mint, brambles and an earthy depth.
A brilliant, supercharged white wine.
It is richly oaked, with minty fruit and a slightly syrupy texture. Extraordinary stuff. Excellent, provided that you like this supercharged style.
A super charged Sauvignon Blanc.
I’ve heard of using strong black tea as a tannin additive and of using coffee in brewing recipes for a super-charged stout but I’ve never heard of making coffee wine.
Full-bodied, with great intensity, tremendous purity, sweet, well-integrated tannin, and a long, blockbuster finish that lasts for 40+ seconds, it offers both power and finesse, a rarity in the super-charged world of big California reds.

(And the tenth is a "super-charged stout", discussed in the context of wine-making. Note, by the way, that Google now seems to match super-charged, super charged and supercharged to "super-charged" -- the last especially is a pleasant surprise.)

Well, I won't go on beating the dead horse. And perhaps Adam knew about this all along, in which case I've fallen for the joke hard enough already. Anyhow, folks, remember -- if you're about to make a generalization about usage, even as a joke, check with Google first.


Posted by Mark Liberman at March 6, 2005 12:01 AM