Saturday, December 18, 2010

New Google Tool and Cycling

A new tool for analyzing frequency of words in the texts that Google Books has digitized (and has in its publisher program, too, I assume) allows some analysis (or conjecture, anyway) about cycling history.

An easy example that demonstrates this is to look at the frequency of the word "wheelmen" in American English - the results are fairly dramatic. With "ordinary" bicycles after the Civil War, there is some mention, but it is only with the introduction of modern safety bicycles in the 1880s that the term is much used - reaching a peak in 1885. The falloff seems earlier than I would have expected. Hmmm.

The tool also allows closer examination of a narrower time range, such as 1875 to 1925.

Other languages are available, including Russian. What was the usage of велосипед (bicycle in Russian) for example?

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