Friday, July 1, 2011

Google's Ngram Viewer

I just found a new toy: the Google Ngram Viewer.  This tool allows you to type in any word or phrase.  Then Google searches the text of a large number of books and returns the word's frequency by year published.  Cool?  You know it.  Useful?  Not much, but it's so cool!  It allows you to guage the relative popularity of words throughout time.

For example, search on "sayeth."  It spikes around the early 1840s and trails off.  Could it be we pesky Mormons who wrote a lot of books during the 1840s?  :)

You can separate words/phrases with commas and you'll get more than one line on the graph.  For example, try "the, and, or, but, a."  The word "the" wins in a landslide!  The words "but" and "or" are left behind in the smoke.  I suppose we don't like to use too many conjunctions.

Here are some fun combinations I've tried:

cat, dog (you will probably find the results disappointing--I sure did)
girl, boy (there's an interesting switching point)
man, woman (I think there's a trend to more unisex terms)
chicken butt (looks like it was invented in the late 50s)
one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten (any guesses which one wins?)
Republican, Democrat (woo hoo!)

Give it a try.  Have fun.  And don't waste too much time!

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