Google Books Ngram Viewer: Best New Toy on the Internet

Google Labs recently provided the internet with a brand new toy: the Books Ngram Viewer. This “research tool” allows you to search the occurrences of words or phrases from over five million books, dating all the way back to the year 1500. Of course, Google created this graphing tool to help literary scholars view trends in literature. For example, here’s a graph of the occurrence of the word “men” versus the word “women” (click to enlarge):

Fascinating. The increase in books that mention women comes just after the 1960’s and women’s lib, as would be expected, and nowadays women are mentioned in literature more often than men. Let’s see what else we can discover…maybe something about language?

Ah, it seems clear that the exclamation “Zounds” was in high use in literature even in the 1800’s, but was overtaken in the 1970’s by the now much more popular “Holy Shit”. An important discovery for the sake of scholarly knowledge, to be sure! What other deep truths of human nature could be revealed?

My goodness, what foul mouths we have.

Google Labs has provided us with such a powerful database of knowledge, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it knew larger truths that we aren’t able to answer on our own…the state of our world, for example?


Play with the Books Ngram Viewer and post what you come up with in the comments (be aware that the search is case sensitive). Or, Tweet them to me!

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