Behind the scenes and in dusty libraries everywhere Google has been scanning books into their every growing database of information. As of 2010 Google said it had scanned 15 Million books into their system. This is amazing!
However, to feel the WOW factor enter the Ngram Viewer. From the subset of 5 million books the Ngram, one of Google’s amazing free online tools, allows user create statistical data about the frequency of any particular word or phrase over the past 500 years. You can also limit the time frame (anywhere between 1500 and 2008) for a more detailed look at a particular subset in history.
If it sounds confusing, or geeky it’s because you haven’t tried it yet.
Below are just a few of the many samplings I ran in the Ngram Viewer:
Heaven & Hell
Freewill, Predestination, Arminianism, & Calvinism
*Admittedly the Ngram Viewer is not a perfect tool. It relies on the ability of the computer that is scanning the books to properly interpret the word. An “S” printed in calligraphy might be scanned as a “F” thus making it appear that the term “best” was in sparse usage in the 1700’s.
* Secondly the Ngram Viewer does not give us detailed look into any particular study or field, for example Christianity. However, it does give an interesting sweeping view of culture and how certain words or phrases fluctuated in frequency and usage.
My suggestion… try it for yourself and share you results.