Custom DefaultDicts with Lambdas in Python for creating detailed frequency tables, or anything else

In Python, there is the dictionary datatype. This is basically a look-up table:

Let’s try and create a frequency table for words though:

This bad code will eventually return a dictionary with entries like:

thing: how_many_times_it_occurred

However, we have to do this try-except statement in case the key doesn’t exist. Defaultdicts get rid of this stage by returning a blank entry (0, empty string, empty list) instead, which is really awesome!

If the key didn’t already exist in our look-up table, then the defaultdict returns an <int> to write the new value! This defaultdict(int)  could be replaced with defaultdict(list)  or any data type.

And now to the crux of the post! We can replace this variable type with a lambda instead, like this:

Now, when the key doesn’t exist, the dictionary will create a new dictionary within! So we can bring another metric into our analysis:

Now our function will return a dictionary that not only lets you know how many times something occurred, but also when it last occurred! Try it out with the following data:

 

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