Saturday, August 06, 2011

Your Friday Deviant Statistic

(Well all right, _my_ Friday. I don't know what day it is where _you_ are...)

Rode past a couple of kids on my bike this morning, and one of them was saying "Jinx!" like we used to do whenever two people said the same word at the same time. I think it was supposed to be bad luck or something; I forget. Anyways, it made we wonder how often that happens:

Assume that "started in the same second" is close enough to "at the same time."
Best estimate to average number of words spoken in a day that I could find with references: 7,500.
Percentage of words (written, but we'll assume roughly equal distributions) that are on the top 25 most frequently used words list: 33%
Number of times per day, on average, you say one of the top 25 words: 2,500
Number of times per day, on average, you say _each_ of those words: 100
Number of seconds in a day: 86,400
Odds that someone is saying a specific one of those words in a given second: 100 / 86,400 =~ 0.0012, or about one in a thousand, give or take.
So 2,500 times a day I say one of those 25 words, and each time there is a one in a thousand chance that you're saying the word at the same time. Just counting those, we should "jinx" each other 2.5 times a day.

That's with two of us. There are approximately 328 million native English speakers in the word, so even discounting the non-native speakers, and the non-top-25 words (and the fact that those statistics are from 2006) the odds are overwhelmingly in favor of the fact that someone somewhere is jinxing you every single time one of those words passes your lips, 2,500 times a day. That'd be a lot of bad luck, but I've just arbitrarily (but y'know, no less arbitrary than the original superstition) decided that its actually _good_ luck, so thats a relief.

"Jinx!" (But then, you just said that, didn't you?)

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