On the Combinatorics of Language

I find the combinatorics of language simply staggering.

In today’s Zippy the Pinhead, Bill Griffith has a character say:

“When Mark Twain is picture smoking a pipe, he certainly looks contented.”

A Google search shows that not only has that sentence never been committed to the Googleverse, but that a simple five word subset has never been digitally uttered within earshot of Google’s bots. I find that richness of variety in language simply staggering.


  1. You can cut it down to 4 words without thinking too hard…

    Just for laughs, “Pinhead Bill Griffith” is easily found. However you’ll be pleased to hear that “Pinhead John Fleck” is not, at least until this comment is indexed. Oops 🙂

  2. John,
    From the introduction of “The Joys of Yiddish,” there are at least 12 distinct meanings of the sentence ‘Nothing.”

    A few of these meanings occur in the following dialogue.

    “What is the matter?”


  3. I find the existence of the word “combinatorics” staggering as well.

    Seriously, I’ve noticed this too—sometimes I’ll be astonished that the little phrase I’d googled had never been, as John says, digitally uttered.

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