Google ngram: the word “liberty”

by on December 17, 2010 at 6:17 am in Books, Data Source, History, Philosophy, Political Science | Permalink


For the pointer I thank Kevin Edwards.  The link here allows you to see the full graph.  In contrast, here is "freedom."

1 Erik Brynjolfsson December 17, 2010 at 5:22 am

Before people jump to mistaken conclusions, it appears that "freedom" is a more modern word for liberty

Cool tool. That took about 10 seconds to research.

2 Adam December 17, 2010 at 5:51 am

Here's a slightly weird one:

It looks exactly as you would expect…except for the weird blip at 1900. Is this a data mistake? Or did some bit of jargon emerge and die at the beginning of the 20th century?

3 Joe December 17, 2010 at 6:07 am
4 Joshua Lyle December 17, 2010 at 6:34 am

Re LoneSnark, here's a link to that:

5 Cyrus December 17, 2010 at 7:07 am

But then, check out the "liberation" bubble of the 1970s.

6 Dave December 17, 2010 at 8:11 am

Some country comparisons are pretty interesting: France,Germany; Japan,China.

7 Sammler December 17, 2010 at 8:45 am

faith, hope, and especially charity

8 anonymous December 17, 2010 at 8:55 am

"supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" shows a blip in 1900, although it was coined in the 1960s. That one's hard to explain as an OCR error. Some of their source documents must have incorrect dates.

I was surprised to see that "reliable" seems to have been invented as late as 1840.

"groovy" is making a comeback.

You could play with this all day.

9 db December 17, 2010 at 10:05 am

The liberty graph is probably more a function of the much smaller sample size than any decline in interest in liberty. Basically any concept that existed in the 18th century will show a similar pattern due to all of the ideas and concepts that exist today that didn't exist then. Justice shows almost exactly the same pattern with a slightly later peak.

10 Ryan Vann December 17, 2010 at 11:41 am


Awesome pseudonymn. That is all.

11 Sigivald December 17, 2010 at 1:33 pm

As db said, we publish a lot more books now; I suspect there were more works of fiction alone published last year than the total of all works mass-published in English in 1778.

(Or any of the surrounding years.)

(I don't have any numbers for the latter; it wouldn't surprise me if individual genres exceeded both the publication count and word count of the total from 1778.)

Given the increased field and supposing, reasonably, that the increase was not evenly distributed (eg. there's a lot more popular fiction than political theory), it would be unsurprising simply on changing-composition grounds.

12 Drew December 17, 2010 at 4:42 pm
13 dirk December 17, 2010 at 7:44 pm

Here's my favorite triplet: "game,gold,race"

I had a feeling those memes were all running together.

14 Dr. Yogi December 18, 2010 at 11:20 am

Ick. Try security vs. liberty in the 20th century.

15 Brian December 18, 2010 at 12:35 pm

"terrorist" spiked a good year before the 9/11 attacks:

No it didn't, not even close. Look again.

If you change the scale you'll see there was a fairly steep rise between 1998 and 2004 followed by more gradual increases until the peak of 2007 (very slight dip in 2008 – last year with data).

16 subdee December 18, 2010 at 4:10 pm

<a href=",Bob+Dylan&year_start=1720&year_end=2008&corpus=0&smoothing=3">Rolling Stones vs. Bob Dylan

I just don't see why this should be true, unless in 90% of cases books only mention Dylan or the Stones as a shorthand for "popular late 60s rock n roll groups" and not as musicians in their own rights.

The Beatles and Elvis Costello also peak around 2002ish.

17 Jordan December 19, 2010 at 11:42 am

'Economics' is tanking. Peaked out in 1995.

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