Searching for Words: Your Ngram Questions

Listeners On Air

Friday, August 23, 2013

Recently, Kurt Andersen talked with the research scientists who partnered with Google to develop the Ngram Viewer. The Ngram Viewer sifts through millions of digitized books and documents, looking for patterns in word usage across centuries. Kurt asked for listeners’ suggestions for Ngram queries, and we got dozens of interesting results.

Juan Martinez wanted to test an assertion by Vladimir Nabokov that Lolita, the name of his scandalous novel, had become more famous (or infamous) than he would ever be. Kurt called Martinez to discuss his findings — scroll down to see them, and other interesting Ngrams run by Studio 360 listeners.


Juan Martinez's Ngram comparing "Vladimir Nabokov" and "Lolita"


Another Ngram Martinez created comparing "Nabokov" and "Lolita"


Mark Lounsbury's Ngram for "apocalypse"


Magreve's Ngram for "at this point in time"


Moji Shabi's Ngram for "girls with guns"


An Ngram comparing the use of blue, red, orange, green, purple, teal, and pink
(Lines appear in corresponding colors)


Comments [3]

Russell Thomas

I've just completed a long blog post using n-gram analysis to study the origins of the "Baby on Board!" craze and other related cultural phenomena. If you like n-gram analysis applied to social science questions, you might like it.

Best regards,


Oct. 07 2013 03:27 AM
Herbert Morgan from Urbana, IL

I just heard this story about NGRAM and Nabokov/Lolita. I haven't tried NGRAM, so I don't know if my comment is relevant. I propose that the reason Nabokov beats Lolita and his full, Vladimir Nabokov does not is because in a story about him, typically the author's full name appears once in the story, at the beginning. Henceforth, he is referred to by his surname. Using my comment here as an example, his surname appears 3 times; his full name, 1 time; and the novel's character's name, 2 times.

Aug. 25 2013 07:34 PM
Bob McCauley from Houston TX

Comparing the usage of the word Masterpiece and Genius...

Aug. 24 2013 09:23 PM

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