Most Frequent Words in Hymns

I’m trying an experiment. At this point it’s just with the lyrics of 80 hymns (a fairly typical sampling, with sources from 19th, 18th, 17th c. and a little in either direction) and it’s an unfair sampling in some ways because I’m going through the “A” section of a huge corpus. Words like “Abide”, consequently, get a pretty high ranking. I’d like, someday, to do it with a much wider sample base, but the preliminary results are pretty interesting:

Out of 13,000 words, first place (besides its, buts, and ands) goes to “Thy” with 173 occurrences. Shortly followed by “Thee” at 118. “Lord” and “God” are in 4th and 5th place, “Jesus” is in 11th below “glory” and “day”. “You” and “Your” do not appear anywhere in the 200 most commonly found words. More in the top 50 are “Ye”, “Hath”, “Hail”. “O’er” and “‘Tis” appear 14 times, ranking above “cross”, “lamb”, “prayer” and “faith”.

Our hymns, it seems, are populated with words nobody actually uses.

But I need to upgrade my search and printing techniques before any more specific trends appear. I’m particularly interested to see how “crystal”, “crimson” and “footsteps” do.

For the curious: the search did not include its, buts, ands, et al. I also couldn’t take seriously the high ranking of “refrain”, because, uh, for obvious reasons. Although maybe that’s telling too.


Think aloud.

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