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What is this?
It's a map of 33,000 English nouns. Each tiny rectangle corresponds to a noun. The color of the rectangle has been assigned a color, based on an internet image search for that noun. The words are clustered so that similar words are near each other. The screenshot below has been annotated to show a few prominent clusters:

You can move your mouse around the map to see what word a rectangle represents. You can also click and zoom in, to see individual clusters. The gallery page has many examples.

Can I pick a color and see what word it corresponds to?
Yes. Click on the "color" button. That will arrange the words by hue and brightness, forming a kind of color chooser. Move the mouse over the rectangles to see what words they correspond to.

Can I type a word and see what color it is?
Yes. Type the word into the "all starting with" text box. As you type, the map will narrow down to show all the words starting with the letters you've typed.

How exactly did you assign colors?
For each word, we performed a Yahoo image search and retrieved 50 image results. (If fewer than 50 images were found, we deemed the word too obscure and discarded it.) Then for each image we averaged the values of the pixels in the middle and then averaged those 50 results. We brightened the colors slightly for display.

Why can't I see anything?
Color Code is a Java applet, a program written in the secure Java language and formatted to run within a web browser. If you can't see the artwork, your browser may not currently support Java. Check Options/Preferences to make sure that Java is enabled. If you don't have Java installed at all, you can download the free plug-in from Sun Microsystems: http://www.java.com/en/download/windows_xpi.jsp.

What words did you use, and how did you categorize them?
The words are a selection of the nouns found in WordNet. We then used WordNet data on word relationships to create a tree-structured categorization of the words. Our process is a rough approximation but it works well enough to create a meaningful map. Note that we wanted words to appear in only one place, which can lead to some strange results: the part of the map that contains colors doesn't contain "orange," for example, because "orange" is in the citrus fruit section.

Shouldn't you watch your language?
The dictionary of words is designed to present a full picture of the English language. As a result, it includes some words that are not used in polite conversation. We considered filtering the words, but that would create a dishonest portrait. Another source of confusion is the categorization used by WordNet, which encodes some judgments that are not culturally universal. If you find your favorite sexual practice categorized as a perversion, please don't take offense!

Why are the word rectangles different sizes?
The size of the rectangle corresponds to the intensity of the color, with bright, intense colors receiving more space. The goal was to emphasize those parts of the language that are most associated with specific colors.

Some of the bright colors don't make sense!
If you're surprised by a word's color, use the mouse menu to do an image search. In some cases ("amnesiac") there may be an association you're not aware of. In others ("throng" or "overrun") a cluster of images with an idiosyncratic usage creates an unexpected result.

Are there other visualizations of language?
Yes; here is a partial list of examples. Matthew Grenby's Gradus plots a 3D historical view of English. Thinkmap's Visual Thesaurus shows a hypnotic view of word relationships. Hugo Liu's Aesthetiscope is an installation that uses color averaging to complement poetry.

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