A few days ago Google launched the Google Books Ngram Viewer, a labs project that lets you compare the frequency of word use in published works, and compare these terms over time. For example, the following is a variety of common first names appearing in the English database over the last two hundred years.
You can see that around 1960, the name David suddenly started to gain in popularity. You can narrow the English corpus to American English, British English and English fiction, and also search works in other languages.
In each of these graphs, I have used the English corpus. Click the graphs to view them full size.
Who’d have thought pride would be so popular? All the sins seem to be coming back in fashion too…
Comparing Britain, England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland with British, English, Scottish, Welsh and Irish.
I was surprised to see ‘ray gun’ and ‘martian’ are still getting more popular use. (In fact, ‘Martian’ – uppercase ‘M’ – dwarfs these other terms). Speaking of martians and dwarves…
Note the decline of the elves and the sudden renewed interest in wizards. And speaking of fantasy creatures, it’s striking to see the decline of interest in God and Jesus, though there does seem to be a small uptake over the last few decades.
The slight growth in material about ‘surveillance’ and ‘privacy’ is increasing, but insignificant compared to material about ‘freedom’ and ‘rights’.
The relative popularity of a few major cities.
It looks like our interest in animation may just be a blip.
Edited just after posting to add…
- Google Books Ngram Viewer
- Google’s blog post about the Ngram viewer.
- Ryan Moulton looks at history.
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