OK, we’re going a little crazy with Google today, but this was too fascinating to pass up. Google Labs has a new tool called Ngram that can analyze and compare how often a word or phrase has occurred in the world’s books over the years.
So just for fun—because this is what we bloggers do for fun—we typed in “men” and “women.” Above is what popped up. (Blue for men; red for women.)
Pretty neat, huh? The graph runs from the year 1800 to 2000. Even though it makes sense intellectually, the numbers look shockingly drastic.
So of course, we went on a search frenzy. Here are the results which compare “boy” and “girl”:
Not quite as drastic. It looks like “girls” eked out ahead of “boys” in the late ’70s—notably before “women” did. It may be premature to read too much into this (pun intended): the tool has still only documented 10 percent of the world’s books. (But we have faith in you, Google.)
In the meantime, though, it’s lots of fun to theorize. What do you think influenced the literary dips and rises of men and women? Feminism, for sure. But there are surely other explanations. What do you think?
Oh, and here’s the link if you want to run your own experiments.