Friday, May 19, 2006

Sex in Elmhurst, pastrami in Rancho Santa Margarita and why you might want to stay away from Milton Keynes


So I'm stuck in the middle of nowhere, I've run out of Nicole Kidman movies and gotta kill some time--Sometimes the World Wide Web will astonish you, even now. You gotta go try Google Trends, and I thank the estimable Mark Morford at SF Gate and the San Francisco Chronicle for the tip.

Google Trends provides you with a view of who searched for what, or at least which community used which search words the most over any period of time. For instance, the good citizens of Portland, Oregon, used the search term “impeach Bush” more than any other American city, followed by Madison, Wisconsin and San Francisco. Austin, Texas came in eighth. Amazing. Elmhurst, Ill., was the community that searched the word “sex” the most, which means there is some serious stuff going on in Elmhurst and I can’t imagine what. As Morford writes:
Turns out Elmhurst is also, at least for 2006, the town most actively looking up "anal sex" (followed closely by Norfolk, Va., and, of course, San Antonio, Texas). And also "porn." And also "gay porn" (just ahead of Las Vegas). And also "vibrator." Do you sense a trend? I sense a trend. And also someplace I might need to get a summer home.

There’s more:
“American Idol?” Honolulu, Hawaii -- by a strangely huge margin. "Gas prices"? Minneapolis. "Dildo"? That would be Oslo, Norway. "Dildo," among U.S. cities? Tampa, Fla. "Tom Cruise"? Cambridge, Mass. "Tom Cruise gay"? Irvine and New York. "Da Vinci Code"? Salt Lake City. "Gun control"? Cincinnati. And "Viagra," for 2006? That's Fort Worth, Texas. Go figure.
You can also graph comparisons and find news stories that are matched to the graphs. This is too much!

So I did my own checking, randomly. If you are a child, you want to stay the hell away from Milton Keynes, England, where they look up “spanking” more than any other place in the world. They also look up “spanking girls” more than any place. Cairo is the world-wide winner for “sex” outside the U.S., followed by three cities in India and then Turkey. Detroit is into “nude celebrities” and Salt Lake City comes in sixth.

More people looked up “evolution” in Salt Lake City than any place else and “intelligent design” is very big in Philadelphia, which makes no sense whatsoever. Jesus is very big in Salt Lake City [they spend a lot of time on computers there, don't they?] and Spokane is high on Moses, even if the Jewish community is negligible. Ms. Kidman is big in Nashville even if she can't even sing very well, while Tom Hanks ranks highest in...er...well...Salt Lake City. Hmmm.

It’s in beta but you could blow a good afternoon wandering around. Meanwhile, I’m off to Rancho Santa Margarita, California, where more people looked up the word “pastrami” than any place else in America.

[Photo: Elmhurst, Ill.]

3 comments:

Bill Thomasson said...

Joel,

I spent a good deal of time campaigning in Elmhurst prior to the March primary. It's about 8 miles west of where I live, which in turn is about 10 miles due west of the Loop and just outside the Chicago city limits. Elmhurst is still one of the older suburbs, though, and not the sort of place people normally think of for a summer home.

Nothing particularly special about Elmhurst that I could see. You need to go another 8 miles west to reach Wheaton and Wheaton College, considered the major bastion of U.S. fundamentalism outside the South. Still I suspect what you're seeing in Elmhurst is a small but active and well-organized group of people searching the Web for things they can disapprove of. I'd guess that a lot of other places have jumped into the lead in various categories on the same basis.

Incidentally, I assume these rankings are on a per capita basis. I can't imagine the absolute number of searches from Elmhurst exceeding those from New York City. But in that case, it seems strange you don't see any mention of places with populations in the low hundreds, where a single person could skew the results.

Joel Shurkin said...

I find it weird myself. They are saying that a couple of thousand people in Elmhurst query the word "sex" more than do the millions in New York City. Don't much believe it myself, but that's what it says. Maybe the fact it is still in beta explains something but damned if I know what.

j

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