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Friday, August 04, 2006  

Cocktail Trivia

When I was in college, I had a professor who liked to impart what he called "cocktail trivia"—useless bits of knowledge that make you look really smart in cocktail party conversation. Now, I don't go to too many cocktail parties, but occasionally I do take a break from module development and spend enough time with people to toss around a little cocktail trivia. For example, I will sometimes tell people that I am experiencing borborygmi. That's the scientific term for your stomach grumbling. Or I may say that I'm triskadekaphobic. That's an irrational fear of the number 13. (I'm not really, but it sure is fun to say!)

Today, we're going to use Accordance 7 to collect a little "cocktail trivia" about the Bible. And we'll do it using the Table Bar Chart.

If you're following along, open a Search window with the Bible of your choice. I'm using the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB). Now click the Search for Words radio button and enter a single asterisk (*) in the argument entry box (if it isn't there already). The asterisk is a wildcard. In verse search mode, it means "any verse." In word search mode, it means "any word." So when you click OK to perform this search, Accordance will find and highlight every word of the Bible. Why would you want to search for every word in the Bible? Because if you click the Details button, you'll get some really interesting statistical information.

Now, select Table Bar Chart from the Graph drop-down menu at the top of the Details workspace. A Bar chart will appear showing the average hits per book. Since we searched for every word, average hits is rather meaningless, but if we choose Total Verses from the pop-up menu at the bottom right corner of the chart, things get a little more interesting:

Now, your Bar Chart will look a little differently than mine at first. I've customized the appearance of my chart by using the one keyboard shortcut you absolutely must learn: Command-T. In the dialog box that opens, choose to Show the count on the right, and to "sort by count," then click OK. Your Table Bar Chart should now look like mine.

If we look at this chart, we see that Psalms has the greatest number of verses by a big margin. You probably already knew that. But did you know that 2 John has the fewest number of verses? Or that Genesis with its 50 chapters and Jeremiah with its 52 chapters both have more verses than Isaiah with its 66 chapters? Did you know that the two largest New Testament books are Luke and Matthew, and that they only come in 8th and 9th respectively?

There's cocktail trivia galore in this chart already, but we can get more by using Command-T again and checking "show chapter detail":

Here we can see that Psalm 119 is the chapter in the Bible with the greatest number of verses, but that Numbers 7, which talks about the consecration of the tabernacle, is second. What is the second longest Psalm? Why Psalm 78. And which chapter in the New Testament has the greatest number of verses? Luke 1.

But number of verses is not necessarily the truest measure of length. To see which chapters in the Bible are truly the longest, we need to look at total number of words. You can do that by selecting Total Words in the pop-up menu at the bottom right.

Note how Psalm 119 is still the longest chapter, but by a much smaller margin when looking at total words rather than total verses. Note also that by this measure, 1 Kings 8 comes in second. Counting by words rather than verses, Matthew 26 is the longest New Testament chapter, followed by Mark 14.

Well, you get the idea. Graphing the total words or total verses in a book or chapter is not exactly as helpful as examining Average Hits or Total Hits after you've searched for a particular word. But when you see a large spike on that Average Hits chart, you may want to switch to Total Words to see the relative size of the book in question. The information is there when you need it, or whenever you want to impress people with some new cocktail trivia. :-)

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