If we are what we Google, then Google Hot Trends —an hourly rundown of search terms "that experience sudden surges in popularity"—is the Web's best cultural barometer. Here's a sampling of today's top searches. (Rankings on Hot Trends list current as of 9 a.m.)
No. 23: "Rabelaisian." Searches related to the passing of longtime Senate stalwart Edward M. Kennedy dominate the listings this morning, taking the top 10 spots. As news of his death spread, those who read John M. Broder's obituary at The New York Times found a description of Kennedy as "a Rabelaisian figure in the Senate and in life, instantly recognizable by his shock of white hair, his florid, oversize face, his booming Boston brogue, his powerful but pained stride." The adjective Rabelaisian refers to Francois Rabelais , a French Renaissance writer who was known for his colorful, often grotesque characters, such as those in his masterpiece, The Life of Gargantua and of Pantagruel .
No. 51: "Microsoft Poland." Microsoft is catching a lot of flack today for a decision to alter a benign-looking corporate ad for use in the Polish market. In the original image, three people—an Asian male, an African-American male, and a white female—are seated around a meeting table. In the Polish version, the African-American male has been Photoshopped out and replaced with a white male—ostensibly because the Polish market is a whiter market. The Photoshoppers, however, left the body of the African-American male in the ad, altering just his face. Microsoft issued an apology tweet this morning. The Telegraph has a photo gallery of other poorly altered advertising images.
No. 69: "Chinese Valentine's Day." Today is Chinese Valentine's Day, which is known in China as the Qi Xi Festival . The holiday falls on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month and, according to Reuters , "celebrates the legend of the fairy Zhinu and her mortal, cowherd husband Niulang who are allowed to meet on a bridge that spans the Milky Way, only on that day." If it rains tonight, legend has it that it is the tears of Niulang and Zhinu crying for a lost year a part because the bridge could not be built. Cross your fingers—for now at least, the forecast in Beijing is clear.
Photograph of Edward Kennedy courtesy Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.