Why Winston Churchill Could Tweet, but Francis Bacon Couldn't

In honor of Twitter's 5th birthday today!

Sentence Lengths of British Public Speakers


Notice a trend here? It appears that the "sound bite" was emerging more than 70 years ago.

Since the average word has about 5 characters, Francis Bacon's sentence length needed at least 360 characters - too long for a Tweet. In contrast, Winston Churchill's average sentence can fit at about 120 characters - room to spare for Twitter's limit of 140.

Adapted from R. J. Hoyle's article "Decline of Language As a Medium of Communication," The Journal of Irreproducible Results, pp. 134-135 (1983).

To quote R. J. Hoyle:

The decline of English as a means of communication is evident here and its eventual demise may be postulated.

The recently reported decline in the ability of students and people in many walks of life to use English in both speech and writing has been accompanied by suggestions that facility with English is of diminishing usefulness. (Time magazine, Aug. 25, 1975, "Can't Anyone Here Speak English?")

There's more. The average word length, in letters, is declining over time.

The decline {letters per word} is approximately one letter per century and can be extrapolated to zero letters per word at about the year 2450.

More like this

With the uprising in Iran using Twitter, there's been a lot of Twitter triumphalism running amok hither and yon through the intertubez. Tom Watson has a very nice takedown, but there are two other themes worth discussing: the conduit by itself isn't revolutionary; and, a medium with 140…
Last night I arrived home safely from ScienceOnline2010. As expected, the conference was tremendously engaging and useful, as well as being a rollicking good time -- so much so that the only blog post I managed to post while there was the Friday Sprog Blog. (Major props to the elder Free-Ride…
Every day it seems there's a new essay or post about social networking fatigue, virtual connectivity's isolating effects, and the threats posed by rapid-fire media. Most of all, though, it's about the problem with Twitter. My "25 random things I hate about Twitter" post attracted an usually large…
Over the weekend my family and I visited Amazon World Zoo Park on the Isle of Wight. I saw tons of new stuff and had a great time, but what might have been my favourite creature is one that would have been all but ignored by the vast majority of visitors. I'm talking about the Matamata Chelus…

Sir Winston, you are drunk!
Madam, you are ugly. At least in the morning I'll be sober!

mr. Nonsense on stilts

Indeed. The "journal article" is tongue and cheek, after all!

Articles that have quality information like this are as precious as gold. You have given me much to think about in this article. Thank you. http://www.samsung1080phdtv.net/

By samsung 1080p hdtv (not verified) on 27 May 2012 #permalink