Your Friday Afternoon Swears More Than Your Grandfather's Friday Afternoon

It's time for Waste Your Friday Afternoon, the Popehat feature that seeks to give you an excuse (as if you needed one) to be unproductive.

This week it's all about words, and how they are used.

Google, in its ongoing quest to do vast, unfathomable, and vaguely frightening things, has announced a vast new word database, containing about 500 billion words from about 5.2 million digitized books from the last four centuries. The resulting Books Ngram Viewer lets you plot how frequently words, or names, have been used over the centuries, permitting a glimpse at both language and culture.

You can inquire, for instance: what happens when a previously innocuous word that meant an uncontroversial thing becomes re-purposed to mean a much-talked-about and controversial thing?

Search away.

Last 5 posts by Ken White


  1. says

    When you look up "Freedom" you can see its well known huge rise between 1743 and 1775 and then it's huge peaks during WWII with what I call the the "trough of apathy" during the "peaceful" consumerism years of the 1950's .

    Whats worrying is the downward slope from the 1970's to now… and looks like it is going even lower in the years to come.

    I don't want to even contemplate "fear", "terror", "censorship"… and don't get me started on (A href="">copyright [Though I see the statute of Anne rates a blip ;) ]

    I could spend hours searching through this.. Ack!