This is an especially short post, as it is a high-level summary of an even higher level summary. Of course, we all know how meaningful THAT is :~
Zeitgeist is a borrowed word, from an English language point of view. It means “signs of the times”. Yes, I realize that zeitgeist is singular, but somehow we seem to have made it plural in the process of adoption from German. Or maybe not, as it is sometimes capitalized, as a proper noun, the Zeitgeist. Perhaps it is one of those mysterious, uncountable words?
Quartz took the top results for the 34 countries for which there was data for the Zeitgeist “How to…?” category. He then rank ordered by frequency, chose the most common result for each country, and asked around, to assure that everything was translated correctly.
Do the results accurately capture each country’s national character?
In most instances, I think the answer is, “Yes”.
The number one “How to….?” query for The Netherlands was “How to survive”.
For others, the results were representative of more recent concerns:
- The result for both Brazil and Poland was “How to remove Facebook” (sensible).
- For the Ukraine, Portugal and the Czech Republic, it was “How to lose weight” (also sensible).
For a few countries, the results were distinctly odd. New Zealand was one of the strangest, as there isn’t even the possibility of non-idiomatic translation error. The most common search result of the year for New Zealand was “How to screenshot”!
Remember the Google Zeitgeist result for New Zealand when assessing market analyses that rely primarily on search query frequency. Even Google treats it as a novelty. Yahoo! does similarly for their year-end search term popularity report.
Best wishes to all for a Happy and Prosperous New Year in 2013!
At a later, as yet unspecified time, I will have more details about the methodology that Google uses for its Zeitgeist Survey. There is some limited ability to conduct a “personal zeitgeist”. I need to do a trial run of that before trying to write about it though!