Acceptance Speech analysis

Movies have the benefit of perfectly polished scripts, crafted and edited by the world’s greatest wordsmiths. But what happens when the moviemakers walk onstage to accept the highest prize in their profession, filled with surprise and emotion but lacking a script?

The Academy Award acceptance speech. While others have done analyses of individual years of Oscars, this is a bit more comprehensive, including every word uttered during the last 20 years of acceptance speeches. In total, there have been over 73,000 spoken, including 7,000 unique words, throughout the 468 speeches available on the Academy’s website. Here are the top 100 words, with the size proportional to the number of uses:


The top ten words are unsurprising: and (spoken 3,679 times over the last 20 years), to (2,923), the (2,502), you (2,807), thank (2,044), I (1,904), my (1,525), of (1,343), for (1,220), a (1,200).

As expected, the top portion of the list is filled with pronouns, prepositions, articles, forms of “to be,” and similar small words. Ignoring those, the top ten are: thank (2,044), like (491), much (473), very (411), want (398), Academy (313), film (307), love (265), people (246), great (246). Clearly, it’s very popular to “like” to “thank” the “Academy,” though only 26 people have used the specific phrase “I’d like to thank the Academy.” Visual effects editor Ken Ralston is the only one in this time period to use the famous phrase twice, after wins for Death Becomes Her (1992) and Forrest Gump (1994). Seven others have used the more formal “I would like to thank the Academy.”

As you can see, film made the cut, easily beating out the alternative movie (161). It was much tighter between films (44) and movies (43). Other close races include:

-producers (74), director (74), producer (73)
-parents (48), kids (47), children (45)
-pictures (38), nominees (38), picture (35)
-inspired (33), inspiration (32)
-supporting (19), supported (19)
-translator (1), translation (1), translating (1), translate (1)

With so many people being honored, there are plenty of adjectives to go around, most of them very positive. The top ten are: great (246), wonderful (158), amazing (108), good (96), beautiful (89), incredible (88), best (58), brilliant (47), fantastic (46), special (45). The only measure in which negativity won the day? No (71) destroyed yes (18).

Among those being thanked, there are some times it is better to be a woman. Wife (158) sped past husband (32), mom (63) slipped past dad (61), mother (53) beat father (40), and women (31) edged out men (27). In other areas of vocabulary, the men won out: man (74) over woman (22), son (32) against daughter (25), brother (26) versus sister (20), and king (22) ruled queen (7).

The most-mentioned countries list has a surprising winner: New Zealand (19), followed by America (10), England (7), Italy (6), Australia (5), Canada (5), China (5), Hong Kong (5), Mexico (4), India (4), and USA (4). If you’re still stuck on that nation in first place, remember that it also goes by the name “Middle Earth” in a highly awarded trilogy.

What do people actually call that thing they just won? Some of the common words include honor (116), award (98), and Oscar (50). Statuette (5) and statue (3) do not fare as well.

Many winners invoke religion, explaining the prevalence of God (91) and bless (27).

Some common words failed to merit more than one mention, including:

-built (James Cameron, Titanic, 1997)
-fiction (Martin Strange-Hansen, The Charming Man, 2002)
-fit (Mira Sorvino, Mighty Aphrodite, 1995)
-happiness (Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist, 2011)
-tall (Eric Roth, Forrest Gump, 1994)
-Sunday (J. Roy Helland, The Iron Lady, 2011)

Many people begin their speech with “first” (appropriately, 111), but in the heat of the moment few remember to reach second (21), third (9), or fourth (1). In terms of cardinal numbers, here’s how they stack up:


What’s one common word that was uttered zero times in all of these speeches? Fittingly, the answer is ‘zero.’


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