Tools/toys: Google’s ngram viewer and news archives

Google now has a tool for graphing how words have come in and out of fashion over time: Books Ngram Viewer. (h/t to Audrey Watters at ReadWriteWeb.)

The tool is still in “lab” form, so take results with a grain of salt, but it’s fun anyway. The y-axis is the proportion of books with each term in a given year. The results are the most interesting when you compare similar terms. Here are a few.

“international aid” vs. “international development”

“climate change” vs. “global warming”


“ethnic war”

Google News Archive

You can get similar results from searching the Google News Archive. (h/t to Amy Finnegan for this.) The graphs below show how frequently terms appeared in news articles (though I think the news archives may be more limited).

Play around with them. If you’re like me, these are both tools and toys. If you come across anything interesting, let me know. I would love a similar tool to search World Bank and United Nations reports. I’m sure we could chart some interesting results on the rise and fall of certain jargon over time…