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Good Grief! Someone Transcribed All the Peanuts Comic Strips!

The Office of Digital Humanities helps Amy Johnson transcribe nearly 18,000 of her father’s Peanuts comic strips for her undergraduate- and master’s-level research.

In October of 1950, Charles M. Schulz released the first of what would later total nearly 18,000 Peanuts comic strips. When Schulz passed in 2000, the strip had become the longest-running, most popular, and most influential comic strip in history.

Fast forward a few more years and Amy Shultz Johnson (’20), one of Schulz’s daughters, returned to BYU after taking a break to start her family; she wanted to do linguistic research on her father’s iconic comic strip. Sadly, since the comics were all handwritten, it was impossible to compile the strips in a way that would allow for analysis. That is, until Jesse Vincent from the Office of Digital Humanities (ODH) came to one of her classes and gave a guest presentation about WordCruncher, a language analysis and database program that he helps run at BYU.

During the lecture, Johnson realized that if she could transcribe the comics, WordCruncher would be able to provide all the data analysis. After the presentation, Johnson approached Vincent with a proposal, and the transcription began.

With the help of thirty students, 17,932 comic strips were transcribed in about six months. Johnson, who is pursuing a master’s degree in linguistics, is now able to use the database of comic stripes to analyze her father’s writing and beloved characters. You can learn more about the project on the blog on ODH’s website.

You might think the efforts of Jesse Vincent and others in the ODH are out of the ordinary, but this is not the first time the ODH has helped a student with their research, and it won’t be the last.

If you have linguistic research that needs a computer whiz to get it up and running, try reaching out to the ODH and learning more about their capabilities. They will have a solution before you can say “Rats!”

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