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  • December 2010
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Google Labs Ngram Viewer

Google, our friend and neighbor, never stops coming up with ways to distract me at work.  The latest iteration of time suckage from Google is Ngram Viewer.

In a nutshell, you can now search the entire text of every book ever scanned into the Google Books project.  You can enter up to 5 words or phrases, and choose a year range, the widest being 1800-2010. You can also choose from a handful of languages, such as Russian or Spanish.

Google Books allegedly accounts for 4% all books ever written, or about 500 billion words.

What exactly am I talking about?

I tried the following search for war and peace, and the viewer searched all of Google Books (in English) for every incidence of either word.  The results are below.  You can see that, at least in Google Books, our culture seems to use the word war far more than the word peace.  You can also see the huge upswing in the use of  word war during both  World War I and World War II.

I also searched versions of hair color descriptions.  You can see that blonds (or blondes, I tried both versions) have gotten a lot more mentions than brunettes and redheads throughout the past 200 + years.

But then a clever co-worker pointed out this search for “Internet.”

Of course, the upswing starts after 1980, but what is that little blip in 1902?  When we dug a little deeper, it appeared that a 1902 government document from the Philippines was encouraging use of the Internet among its employees.  Digging deeper still, we learned that this is a Google mistake. The document was actually from 1997, but Google dated it as 1902.

This is not a perfect tool, by any means.  In fact, much as already been blogged about its glitches.    But it is fun for wordies to play around with while dodging their monthly report or final paper duties, so give it a whirl!

Happy time-wasting, everyone!



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