Phrases you can't believe don't exist on the internet

If you go to Google and put a phrase in quotation marks, like this:

“To be or not to be”

… then run a search, you get a list of pages with that phrase on it.

Sometimes I am shocked to learn that some phrases (or sentence fragments), return zero results.

Like this one:

hoping he’d do me a favor” - 0 results.

Really, internet?

You just have to know how to run the searches.

Lose the quotation marks and you’ll get a bunch of hits. When you use quotes you are effectively eliminating about 80% of the Boolean logic gates that comprise the algorithm that primarily drives Google’s Search engine. Google is so good that it knows when a search topic, like the one you used as an example in your OP, is basically meaningless since it is so common. It needs context, in other words. It’s “GIGO” all over again! Don’t blame Google. Rather, as tech guys sometimes say…“PBK.”


It’s not even true! I got one hit when I googled “hoping he’d do me a favor”


I got two hits plus five images with the phrase “hoping he’d do me a favor”:cool::smiley:

Yes, he does know how. He wants a phrase, so he encloses his phrase in quotation marks. If he was looking for “a bunch of hits” that contain “a bunch of words” in no particular pattern, he knows how to do that, too. But it would be of no relevance to his question.

I get precisely one hit for “You’re A Bad Man, Charles Manson” and only three for “You’re A Bad Man, Charlie Manson”.

I thought the Charlie Manson/Charlie Brown nexus would be larger, myself.

It’s the internet, so how about “having considered your counterargument, I concede that I was wrong”?

Zero results.

Parbunkells: Internet Art: the parbunkells billboard - Mundane Pointless Stuff I Must Share (MPSIMS) - Straight Dope Message Board

(Link to a thread about an art project based on Internet search.)

How many were pr0n?

Yes, really.

What makes you think that phrase should somehow return a result (in quotation marks)? All the kids are saying it these days? Or what? It’s the title of your favorite Walt Whitman poem?

Or put another way, Google is good enough that it doesn’t identify the phrase itself–as a specific phrase, i.e., in quotation marks–as occurring enough to demonstrate any connection to a linguistic community of practice.

The premise of the OP is comparing apples with oranges.

SIGH! none, the images were actually all page elements of the SDMB

I can think of one phrase I really wish I never Googled.

Let’s just say that if you need parts for an old “Ford-a-Matic”, be careful what you click on.

Google doesn’t make exhaustive exact-text matches across their entire database, and they further index pages by internally generated keywords. In all likelihood, when you do a quoted search Google breaks down the terms, does a “normal” search for the keywords, and only highlights the matching phrase in the results after the fact.

The key to why Google can handle so much data is that their search algorithm is a “fuzzy” search that allows for false negatives. Google ranks relevance including factors such as how often a page is linked to, the surrounding terms, how often it is visited, and other factors they keep proprietary, even further weighted by your own search history. So, it’s not unexpected Google would fail to find an obscure phrase on a barely-visited page.

“hoping he would do me a favor” gets a hit

Can you give me an example of a sentence fragment that exists on a website indexed by Google, that doesn’t show in a search result when you Google that exact phrase/sentence fragment?