I may have been a little unusual as an English major in my college days. I remember one professor asking me what I found interesting about a particular author we were studying, and my answer was about patterns involving the language that he used, and how he tended to frequently use certain words that were no longer much in fashion these days. He asked for an example, and I pointed out the use of the word “singular.” I could tell that he found my point a little odd, and I wish that the Google Books N-Gram Viewer was around back in those days to back up my statement . As a side note, I wish I could have taken a class or two with HITS algorithm inventor Jon Kleinberg, who probably would have appreciated my response.
I point that out because I recall some unusual phrasings by search engineers at a large search conference I attended a few years back where most of the search marketers were using the term “ranking factors,” and all of the search engineers who gave presentations and participated in question and answer sessions instead used the term “signals.” I wasn’t the only one who noticed the phrasing, and someone called one of the search engine representatives on his use of the term, upon which a Google representative responded, and was seconded by the Yahoo and Microsoft reps, that they preferred to use the term “signal” instead of “factor.”
Much like in my college days, I find myself a little obsessed with the language used in the search patents I read. If Google would point their N-Gram viewer at the USTPO’s database of patents, that would be a great thing. There are a few terms that I keep on seeing spring up in some Google patents that I’ve been finding pretty interesting lately.