Tricking the Search All
Jun 26, 2012 David Lang

Tricking the Search All

In my previous post, I used Accordance to show that an internet meme claiming that the Bible has 365 occurrences of "Do not be afraid" is clearly mistaken. First I searched my default Bible using a series of OR commands to account for possible variations in the phrase. Then I used the Search All window to search all my English Bibles. At the end of that post, I pointed out something surprising: several popular English translations (such as the KJV, NRSV, and NASB) did not show up in the search results. I even offered a ten dollar Accordance credit to the first person who could explain why that was. In this post, I want to explain why the search failed for those translations and offer a workaround.

When you search an Accordance resource, the first thing Accordance does is check every word you entered against the word list for that resource. If one of the words is not found in the word list, Accordance will actually present you with the word list so you can pick another word. If you search the NRSV for the search I created in my last post (do not be afraid <OR> don't be afraid <OR> do not fear <OR> don't fear <OR> be not afraid <OR> fear not), you'll see immediately that the NRSV does not include the contraction "don't." Thus, the search as I've constructed it is invalid for the NRSV.

InternetMeme5

When you perform this search in a Search tab, you get instant feedback that a word you entered is not found, but in the Search All window, it would be irritating to be presented with a word list for each module that did not contain a word in your search argument. The Search All window therefore only returns results for the modules that contain the search terms entered. Thus, any Bible that does not have the word "don't" does not show up in our search results, even though it may contain the other phrases entered.

If you want to make sure this search returns results for those Bibles which do not have "don't" in their word lists, you have to resort to a little trickery. By replacing the "o" in "don't" with an asterisk wildcard, Accordance will accept the search, since these Bibles have plenty of words which begin with "d" and end with "nt" (Accordance ignores the apostrophe). Since words like "descendant" and "different" are not likely to be coupled with "fear" in a single phrase, this broader search returns few if any false hits. It simply satisfies Accordance's requirement that a search term match at least one word in a module's word list. With that requirement satisfied, the Search All will now return results for those Bibles which do not contain the word "don't", including the NRSV, KJV, and NASB.

InternetMeme6

In my next post, we'll examine this wildcard search more closely and see what, if any, false hits might have been found. Then I'll show you another trick to eliminate even those.

Bookmark and Share

Your Name*
Your Email*
Your Friend's Name*
Your Friend's Email*
Subject*
Body*
Characters Remaining: 4747
Verify Words
  * Privacy: Don't worry, we respect your privacy and do not collect any information from this form.