The Best of Sherlock Holmes


On Determining Quotation Popularity:
A New Methodology using the Stock Scale


The two key factors in ranking quotations are familiarity and longevity. Top choices will be well-known and used (or at least recognized) over long periods of time. A good approach will rely on the choices of quotation experts at many different points in time. In addition, it's useful for the model to be intuitive and to provide both rank-order and some information about the relative strength of each choice. The new "Stock Scale" meets all these criteria.


This model uses citations from the various editions of Familiar Quotations by John Bartlett and The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations as surrogates for public familiarity when the dictionaries were published. Passages from the Holmes stories appear in the 11th (1937) to 17th (2002) editions of Bartlett and in all five editions (1941-1999) of Oxford.


As established in "Quoting Sherlock Holmes: The Ten Most Famous Canonical Quotations," these are the preferred references for rating quotations. This paper also notes the reasons why it makes sense to give more weight to appearances in Bartlett and to appearances in the latest editions of both works. Other goals of this exercise included minimizing the number of ties and retaining computational simplicity.


Various quantitative models were tested. The Alternative Models page contains results for some of them. The best model, the Stock Scale, is calculated as follows:


Stock Score = (Total # appearances in Bartlett or Oxford + 0.3 (if appears in latest Bartlett) + 0.2 (if appears in latest Oxford)) * 100/12.5


This formula is based on the 12 relevant editions of Bartlett and Oxford. It's easily modified as new editions are printed. Indeed, it was originally developed in 1998 and recently updated to include the latest editions.


It ranks quotations in the following order:


  1. Total number of appearances in any edition of Bartlett and Oxford
          with these tie-breakers...
  2. then passages appearing in the latest editions of both Bartlett and Oxford
  3. then passages appearing in the latest edition of Bartlett
  4. then passages appearing in the latest edition of Oxford


While the Stock Scale was developed to rate the Holmes story quotations, it can be extended and applied to other stories and quotations. It's preference and weighting for Bartlett is appropriate for the Holmes stories. Since Oxford only begins in 1941, it would make sense to add another source to balance Bartlett's choices when rating selections from earlier periods.


The Stock Scale is based on a consensus of expert opinion over many years. It provides a numerical score that reflects the all-time popularity of a quotation. This allows you to rank quotations and to get a sense of their relative popularity.


Back to The Ten Most Famous Quotations from the Sherlock Holmes Stories



Vers. 2.0ax-RN Original work
Copyright 2004  Randall Stock. All Rights Reserved.