Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Ngrams and the Evolution of Words

The beauty of technology is that so much information is at our fingertips. Ever since Google scanned 500 billion books (that's a lot of books) we have even more information available to us. The Google ngram viewer shows us word trends. You can type in some words or phrases and it will show the trend of those words across time. It's been around for a while, but it's still a lot of fun.

One great example is throve vs thrived. As the graph shows, it wasn't until the early twentieth century that thrived (the red line) took over as the popular choice.

I tried young adult vs teen vs teenager with an unexpected result:

And someone else found the point where the long s was disused in the early 1800s. Beft vs Best:
I could spend hours trying different variations on these graphs.  

Have you found any cool results?

Note: I'm still in the jury duty process. So far I haven't been picked yet for a trial but neither have I been officially dismissed. It's likely I'll have to head in to the Supreme Court tomorrow. So again, I may not be around much for the next three weeks, but I'll try and catch up with blog visits.


  1. hope jury duty will give you some inspiration for writing :)

  2. I've never tried out the ngram viewer, but those are interesting results!

  3. Never tried it. Funny that 'young adult' is on the decline when there's a whole, giant genre of books described as young adult.
    As I told Matthew at QQQE - jury duty sucks. (He's stuck there this week as well.)

  4. Those are some really interesting graphs, especially how there's been a slight uptick of "throve" usage recently. I hope jury duty goes well. If it's anything like mine, then you'll have plenty of time for reading.

  5. I saw the ngrams on some other blog a while ago, but I never managed to go and play with it. I should go and do that...

    Sorry about jury duty. Three weeks! Yikes. I was annoyed with the week I had to call in (and ultimately ended up on a trial that lasted two days). Maybe you'll get dismissed?

  6. I've looked at some interesting Ngrams on my blog here: http://charlottesannazzaro.blogspot.com/2011/05/ngram-words-through-time.html

    I was looking more at ideas than actual word usage. It certainly is interesting to see how vocabulary has changed over time.

  7. Yuck, jury duty...
    Are writers the only ones who use the term "Young Adult" anymore?

  8. I've never heard of the ngram viewer before! Thanks for sharing, and good luck with jury duty!

  9. That a new toy to me. Looks like fun.

  10. Whoah, I'd never heard of this! Looks like I have a new toy to play around with.

    Good luck with jury duty!

  11. What a cool gadget! I love Google. And I fear them, just a little bit. :) That really is AWESOME. :)

  12. ahh. Another victim of jury duty. Poor thing. I've never played this game, but I love it. How fun is that?

    Beft? What? :D <3

  13. Good luck on jury duty. Don't recall seeing "beft" before, though maybe I have.

  14. That would be a great tool for historical writers I would think.

  15. Ooh good luck with jury duty. Awesome post though! What a cool discovery!

  16. Oh, you're on jury duty? Sorry I'm out of the loop. I was at Outdoor School all week.

    Anyway, on topic, I've never seen that program before, but it sure looks interesting.

  17. That is also a new toy for me. It could be more addicting to me than angry birds!

  18. That is so cool! Thanks for entertaining me for a moment.. love the beft and best

  19. Very cool...I haven't heard of it before.

    Good luck with jury duty...every experience can be used in your writing. :D Even if you don't know when you'll use the experience...keep a journal about your experience!

  20. That's so cool, Lynda! Thanks for sharing it with us. I'm off to play now. :)

    Good luck with jury duty!

  21. Really interesting. Thanks for the link.

    Hope you find jury duty a positive experience. Good luck!

  22. Dezzy, thanks. That's what I'm hoping too.

    Golden, I recommend it. It's lots of fun.

    Alex, haha I don't mind about jury duty because I've never done it before.

    JEFritz, yeah.. I don't understand that uptick haha

    Liz, yes, do, it's lots of fun. A two day trial sounds interesting...

    Charlotte, oh, fabulous! I'll check them out

    Laura, yeah, I was wondering that myself.

    Cortney, thanks

    Southpaw, gotta love new toys ;)

    Caitlin, thanks

    Bethany, haha yeah, they are to be feared... ;)

  23. Leigh, yeah, Beft (best) comes from the f being an elongated s in the old texts. It's why it's so hard to read olde english. Cool huh?

    Matt, haha it's unlikely unless you enjoy reading super old texts.

    Luanne, It's also a good tool for seeing modern trends as well. Try looking up vampires vs werewolves ;)

    Jess, thanks

    McKenzie, yeah, I've not done jury duty before.

    Lynn, haha yeah, I've avoided angry birds because I've heard it's so addictive hehe.

    Michelle, hehe any time ;)

    Sharon, absolutely! That's the plan :)

    Carrie, have fun!

    Joanne, thanks.

  24. No - no more distractions!! Especially fun ones like this! LOL!! Yay!! Thanks Lydia!! Hope all is going well with jury duty (you're the second one here in blogland on jury duty I know of - the other is Matthew McNish!). Take care

  25. That looks like fun, and not a means of procrastination at all :-)

    Hope the coffee is good at the supreme court!

  26. Okay, now I've got a new site to keep me occupied doing other things! LOVE IT!

  27. ngrams is so cool, it's one of the few things I have bookmarked! I was just referring a historical fiction writer to it, to check out some word usage. #Coolness

  28. These ngrams are cool.Thanks for introducing me to them. Your jury duty sure will give you lots of inspiration...Lynda will it be a courtroom drama next?

  29. Have fun on the jury. Maybe you'll get a great story idea or 50. :)

    The graphs are cool.

  30. Old Kitty, lol yeah, it can take up some time ;)

    Sarah, no! Not at all. You could call it research ;)

    Bish, hehe

    Susan, yes! It's lots of cool

    Rachna, hahaha I'm not sure I'd write a full on courtroom drama although one of my stories does have a trial...

    Mary, hope so... still not picked though hahaha

  31. That looks fascinating! Maybe you'll get lucky and NOT get picked for jury duty (unless you really wanna, LOL).

  32. So cool! I hadn't seen this before. Now I want to go play around with it. :D

  33. This is cool. I have heard and read about it while learning about SEO and keywords, but this was my first time to see it in action. Thanks for sharing.

    So you are stuck in Jury Limbo (not picked, but not yet excused). Have you been questioned as part of a panel? I know that the jury selection process is long and tedious, but it serves an important purpose. At least you can get some reading or writing done while you wait to be called for questioning. I bet you can come up with a lot of story and character ideas as well.

    Take comfort in not being sequestered and having your computer & phone taken from you.

    Hang in there

  34. That's awesome! I'm heading straight over there and having a play :)

  35. Thanks for sharing this. I wasn't familiar with the ngram viewer.

    Jury duty. :( Like someone else mentioned, maybe you'll get some inspiration from it.

  36. That's so cool, I've never seen ngrams before! My new procrastination tool...

    I'm permanently excluded from jury duty because (a) I have a law degree and (b) I work in a field rules me out... which means that of course I think it would be fascinating. Hopefully you'll get a short story at least out of some of the characters ou meet!

  37. I've seen some old books (early 1800's) where the "s" nd "f" were interchanged. Confused the hell out of me! But I have to wonder if "teen" had another meaning?

  38. Interesting, but I am going to pretend that I don't know about this ngram viewer as it sounds like a big distractor.

    Good luck with the jury duty.

  39. Interesting! I'm definitely going to play around now. :-) See you when you're back.

  40. man i would love to see or do something tribunal related but there's no such thing in my country :(

  41. Wow, neat stats:) I actually used to work near the building where they did all that scanning...it didn't look too fun;)

  42. Carol, Nothing so far... but I do think it would be an interesting experience.

    CherylAnne, hehe, enjoy the distraction ;)

    Melissa, nope, I haven't even been questioned yet. Eek, no computer and phone? nooooooooooooooo!! ;)

    Jamie, enjoy

    Medeia, that's what I'm hoping

    Amie, lucky you! And yes I think it would be fascinating too.

    Will, yeah, the thing about teen is interesting isn't it.

    Cynthia, hahaha yeah...sorry about that ;)

    Misha, have fun

    Tony, oh that's interesting.

    Mark, haha yeah I've done some scanning in the past as well and you are right: it's not fun ;)

  43. I miss throve. I want to bring it back! Going to campaign to bring throve into the 21st century!


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