Google Books Ngram Viewer is a tool that searches for words and phrases in Google’s more than 20 million digitized books and produces a graph showing how the words or phrases have occurred. Users can search published general and fiction works in eight languages over five centuries. Search strings can contain up to five terms. The tool is case sensitive, as demonstrated by this search.
Users can experiment with the tool’s general features or visit About Ngram Viewer which details advanced features, such as part-of-speech tags and ngram compositions, (+, -, /, *, :) which permit the combining of ngrams. The corpora, or digitized texts, are defined in greater detail as well. FAQs at page bottom address other concerns. In addition, two papers relevant to the Ngram Viewer are referenced: “Quantitative Analysis of Culture Using Millions of Digitized Books” ( PDF, 1.6 MB, 12 pgs.), which describes how the tool can provide insights into lexicography, grammar, collective memory, technology, fame, censorship, and historical epidemiology and “Syntactic Annotations for the Google Books NGram Corpus” ( PDF, 219 KB, 6 pgs.), which describes how the tool can aid the study of linguistic trends related to the evolution of syntax.
High School students in English, social studies, and the arts can use the tool to analyze vocabulary, for example, the use of the general terms “spaghetti,” “pasta,” “noodles,” and “macaroni.” Literature students might be interested to see the lag between publishing date and the mention of a book’s title, for example The Lord of the Rings, first published in 1954.
Slang usage is an obvious subject for searching. A search for “groovy,” “far-out, and “gnarly” produced predictable peaks, but Google has no tag for interjections or expletives making the results ambiguous.