I was just reading on a mailing list for editors, Copyediting-L, that Google has updated the Ngram Viewer. Here’s the original announcement from Twitter:
The Google Books Ngram Viewer has now been updated with fresh data through 2019. Previously, data stopped at 2012. The viewer allows tracking the occurrence of words & phrases in books over time. Learn more about the viewer here: https://t.co/KjNIeYRhIH pic.twitter.com/hEUJCpJE7o
— Google SearchLiaison (@searchliaison) July 13, 2020
Google Books may have been controversial in the book publishing industry, but it did have its fringe benefits. Ngram Viewer, for example, lets you search the breadth of Google Books and find out when a word or phrase first showed up in a book, how often it appeared, etc. It would even give you a handy chronological graph showing the frequency of use.
For example, “bee’s knees” only really started showing up in books during WWI:
Now the Ngram Viewer is even better.
As an occasional user of the Ngram Viewer, I think this is great news. I have used this tool to see when a term was first used in a book and when it fell out of favor, and I’ve always been frustrated by how the data stopped in 2012.
This update will let me track how words are used as recently as last year.
For example, blockchain was still relatively uncommon as late as 2012, but it has been growing in popularity ever since.