Fun With Google’s Non-Existent Stop Words, Pushing Query Limits

While I was going some experimental searching for Google’s tweaked search results, I tried my old standby search — a — to confirm the presence of stop words.

Except it didn’t work, in that it does work. Searching Google for a will give you search results instead of a disclaimer about stop words — 19,020,000,000 at this writing.

That isn’t the largest result group I could find — that would be the search query 1 with 21,770,000,000 results at this writing — but there’s an interesting thing about searching for a. It’s the fact that you can run the search a -a and get lots of results.

Granted, there are only about 267,000, but they’re fascinating and mostly not in English. It looks like that query causes Google to search for special characters, like â, while discarding the original a query. I don’t know if this is a similarity search, an effort to encompass special characters, or what.

Now, y’all know I’m a total search geek so it probably won’t surprise you to learn that after I learned that a was searchable, I searched for b, then c, then d…. anyway I did a Google search for the each letter in the alphabet since they all worked and while some of the results were unexpected (a search for p brought up the Sarah P. Duke Gardens at Duke University as its first result) what I really learned from running those searches is that Wikipedia is everywhere.

Of the 26 letters searched, 10 had as the first search result a Wikipedia article. Out of those ten, six were for the Wikipedia article on the letter itself. There’s probably some Deep Hidden Meaning in there somewhere but I don’t know what it is.

My search experimentation was getting a bit ridiculous when I realized that I wasn’t hitting Google’s query limit. I had thought Google had a search limit of 32 words, but when I ran the following search:

a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z one two three four five six seven eight nine ten eleven twelve thirteen fourteen snowblower

Google didn’t complain and actually gave me three results.

To test this a little further I typed out the numbers one to 33 in Google’s query box, and then Google told me that there was a 32-word query limit and what the heck was I trying to pull.

Not sure what’s going on here but I’m getting very interested in these single-letter search queries. Stay tuned…

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