Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010

Popular Prices

I’d never given much thought to the conceptual differences that might arise between the singular and the plural. So I was surprised to find that the concept “price” tends to evoke very different things than that of “prices.”

The two images below show the most popular Google searches for price and prices. Other than gold, a popular asset these days among investors, no commodity appears among the top 10 on both lists. In fact, people who search for prices seem to be in an entirely different state of mind than those simply searching for a price.

The difference probably has to do with how we relate to these things. Gold and oil are generic commodities –one ingot or barrel is pretty much the same as another. We think of them as identical, with a single price. Alcohol, tattoos or marihuana, by contrast, refer to unique goods and services that we purchase from a list or menu, with different options and different prices.

Which leads us to the perhaps uncomfortable realization that Google users, if not all Americans, are particularly interested in the prices of weed, booze, tobacco and wedding dresses.

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