Monday, March 8, 2010


anecdata = anecdotal + data

This was a new one for me when I saw it this morning on Language Log: "A New York Times Room for Debate piece on 'Killing Pythons, and Regulating Them' (3/5/2010) supplies another piece of anecdata for my on-going quest to document the North American varieties of uptalk."

From what I've read, anecdotal data, or anecdata, is the least reliable type of data for forming good, scientific, verifiable conclusions. As such, I would expect anecdata to have a negative connotation. But apparently at least two companies/people have decided that anecdata is a good company name choice for an institution that's involved in demographic research. I've found Anecdata LLC, which collects stories in order to "help us all to understand what exactly makes good customer service so good"; and there's Anecdata Statistical Consulting, which "provides specialized analytic support for a range of biological, psychological, and epidemiological research interests."

To me, Anecdata Statistical Consulting seems like a contradiction in terms, and the company needs renaming. Judging from the lack of complexity of the Web site and the lack of blog updates, this company (which looks to be a single person) isn't exactly reeling in the customers.