Google’s Ngram a Glorious Waste of Time

by Liz Colville

Google just debuted Ngram, a database of words from 500 billion books published between 1500 and 2008, allowing scholars (and regular humans) to track how often words and “cultural trends” show up in written texts over time.

So, for instance, you can track the use of the word ‘women’ vs. the use of the word ‘men,’ or, pictured, ‘coffee’ vs. ‘tea.’ The Times’ Patricia Cohen found that mentions of ‘women’ overtook ‘men’ in the 1980s, and the word ‘grill’ overtook ‘fry’ in 2004. She calls Ngram “a diversion that can quickly become as addictive as the habit-forming game Angry Birds.” What? No. But I did find that people liked coffee and tea the exact same amount, and not all that much, in like 1966, if that’s what we’re supposed to skew this information to mean. Probably because they were finding other things to keep them awake. Oh, speaking of which…

Whoa, cocaine! Easy, tiger! Looking better now, though, you two.