A SEARCH FOR THE WORD THIS on the Web will get you RickRoll’D. The various unrelated hits that appear include This American Life, This Is Why You’re Fat, and a site that asks: “If you are feeling suicidal now, please stop long enough to read this.” When one takes advantage of a more sophisticated Google device, the increasingly popular Ngram Viewer, the statistical portrait served up from the depths of Google’s digitized book collection is just as opaque. Even though it carries with it an aura of the scientific, this Ngram tells us no more about the demonstrative pronoun’s most interesting uses than do even the ridiculously irrelevant top search results for this.

Yet this is a piece of literary minutiae, which, while straining the capacities of any search engine, has had a profound effect on literary experimentation. Why, for example, is our search not topped with William Carlos Williams’s:

—of this, make it of this, this
this, this, this, this .

more from Joe Milutis at Triple Canopy here.