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Words, meet numbers

Have you seen this thing? So cool.

Google has now digitized 15 million books and this dingus allows you to graph word and phrase frequency over time. Up to five comparisons at once.

So, for example, you can see the handover point when “World War I” replaced “Great War” in literature. Or the exact point “Tiananmen Square” drops out of Chinese books.

It isn’t by a pure word count. It couldn’t be. There were only half a million books published in English before 1900 and a squintillion since then, so any pure word count would make a screaming spike roar up the Twentieth Century. They explain a bit more about how they normalize the data here.

This would have been a great tool to have during the Michael Bellesiles controversy. (Though I still think the simplest way to debunk him would’ve been counting how many cookbooks had recipes for game. Game means guns).

Hold on, hold on, hold on. Y’all are going to go look up wirty dords, aren’t you?

Yeah, I know you people like the back of my hand.

December 16, 2010 — 10:49 pm
Comments: 26