Google Ngrams Lets You Search Historical Word Usage

Google Ngrams Lets You Search Historical Word Usage

My wife is the Vice President of our middle school PTO, and therefore last Friday night (while Travis was out winning a state championship) I was chaperoning the middle school dance. Aside from all of the expected drama and tears, I noticed that the hip word for everything with the 8th grade boys was ‘ghetto’. Of course, for me that doesn’t have positive connotations, but for them … it means super-cool. I wondered when it came into use and how it had gone from the meanings I associated with the poor areas of World War II Warsaw through the inner city poverty implications into the new meaning as ‘best thing ever’. So I searched NGrams at Google Labs and got the graph above.

The Google Books Ngram Viewer allows you to search out words in any of the huge databases of books in the Google system. According to the site:

When you enter phrases into the Google Books Ngram Viewer, it displays a graph showing how those phrases have occurred in a corpus of books (e.g., “British English”, “English Fiction”, “French”) over the selected years.

So naturally I kept searching things, looking for works like obsequious, Star Wars vs. Star Trek, and so on. I also looked to see how Jazz and Rock music got covered, which shows a nice transition.

Google Ngrams Lets You Search Historical Word Usage

Head on over to NGrams at Google Labs to find out when and where other words appeared.

Source: Urlesque via BuzzFeed

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About the Author

Michael Anderson
I have loved technology for as long as I can remember - and have been a computer gamer since the PDP-10! Mobile Technology has played a major role in my life - I have used an electronic companion since the HP95LX more than 20 years ago, and have been a 'Laptop First' person since my Compaq LTE Lite 3/20 and Powerbook 170 back in 1991! As an avid gamer and gadget-junkie I was constantly asked for my opinions on new technology, which led to writing small blurbs ... and eventually becoming a reviewer many years ago. My family is my biggest priority in life, and they alternate between loving and tolerating my gaming and gadget hobbies ... but ultimately benefits from the addition of technology to our lives!