Cool Toys Pic of the day – Using Google NGrams to Answer a Reference Question

Screen_shot_2012-02-15_at_10

Google Ngrams:
http://books.google.com/ngrams

Google Ngrams aren’t new, but I find there are still a lot of folk who
haven’t heard of this interesting tool. So far I’ve mostly used it
just out of curiosity or a demo, but a few folk are using it for
research, or in classes, despite it’s many limitations (word meanings
& spellings changing over time, inability to disambiguate words with
multiple meanings, inability to cluster and compare a collection of
related terms with similar meanings, etc.). The most provocative and
interesting Ngram I’ve seen so far is the climate change ‘proof.’

Google Ngram: unseasonably warm,unseasonably hot,unseasonably
cold,unseasonably cool
http://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?content=unseasonably+warm%2Cunseasonably+hot%2Cunseasonably+cold%2Cunseasonably+cool&year_start=1800&year_end=2000&corpus=0&smoothing=3

It doesn’t really prove anything, but it does raise a variety of
curious questions.

Today something else happened. Doug Haslam posted this tweet, asking a
question.

Twitter: Doug Haslam: “Trying to pin down the date the words
“awesome/awesomeness” lost all meaning. Anyone got the notes on that?”
https://twitter.com/#!/DougH/status/169795521714716672

I suggested the 1960s, because of reading in a book when I was young
about the misuse of the word “aweful”. Other folk started replying,
different opinions voiced, and things got interesting enough, I
decided to check out actual years and patterns of use in NGram, with
the assumption being that when the word “awesome” really skyrocketed
in use, it was probably meaning something different than it used to
mean. That’s today’s image. It’s pretty dramatic that the word
“awesome” has changed in meaning or is being used in different ways.

Google Ngram: aweful, awesome, awesomeness: http://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?content=aweful%2C+awesome%2C+awesomeness&year_start=1800&year_end=2000&corpus=0&smoothing=3

If you want something else rather interesting and sad, but which doesn’t answer the question asked, try adding the current spelling of “awful” into the mix. 

Google Ngram: aweful, awful, awesome, awesomeness: http://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?content=aweful%2Cawful%2Cawesome%2Cawesomeness&year_start=1800&year_end=2000&corpus=0&smoothing=3

I started to wonder if Google Ngram would be useful for science
research or questions. I played around a bit with some controversial
topics. Most of them either were unsuitable questions or came back
with displays that are more probably irrelevant than anything.

Google NGrams: Creation vs evolution:
http://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?content=creation%2Cevolution&year_start=1800&year_end=2000&corpus=0&smoothing=3

Like why don’t we eat mutton anymore. Did you realize that mutton used
to be preferred to beef, pork, chicken, and even bacon? Who knew?

Google NGrams: beef,pork,goat,salmon,mutton,bacon,chicken,turkey
http://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?content=beef,pork,goat,salmon,mutton,bacon,chicken,turkey&year_start=1800&year_end=2000&corpus=0&smoothing=3

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2 thoughts on “Cool Toys Pic of the day – Using Google NGrams to Answer a Reference Question

  1. Pingback: Cool Toys Pic of the Day – Google Trends | Cool Toys U

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