Blog Post #1- Is Chivalry really dead?

I took a slightly different approach to this assignment, because my central interest was in how Ngram could shed light on the phrase “Chivalry is dead.” I went about exploring this in several different ways. First, I just searched the word by itself to get a general idea of the history of how it was used. In the default timespan of 1800-2000, the data completely supported the idea that chivalry is dead, but when I decided to expand the time span to 2008, I was surprised to find that chivalry is on the rise once again.

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I thought perhaps this recent rise was due to an increase in discourse about the fact that chivalry is dead, so I decided to search that phrase, and found out that it, in fact, declined around the time that the word “chivalry” began to be used more:

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So, with this information, I added in some other words that I associated with chivalry to see if there was a correlation between them, and there was.

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It is difficult to see the pattern of chivalry since it is not used very much in comparison the respect and dignity, but in general the trend of the three words is the same, which I found very interesting.  To push this even further, I decided to compare chivalry to its opposite, disrespect, and see the relation between the two.

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It appears that sometime in the 1990s and early 2000s chivalry was at an all time low, and disrespect had for the first time surpassed it. Yet, in what is good news to an optimist and romantic like myself, chivalry recently regained its dominance, suggesting that it might be becoming important once again.

I then looked up the books that had these words in them. The top result for chivalry in the early 1800s was titled “Tales of Superstition and Chivalry,” and it is unclear whether or not it is suggesting that the two are the same.  However, it appeared to be discussing chivalry in the present moment, whereas recent texts were all historical fiction or non fiction accounts of the days when chivalry was more valued. As for disrespect, the earlier texts had much to do with reverence and religious matters, whereas the more recent ones had to do with racial issues and bullying, which displays how society’s values have shifted over time.

I think Ngram definitely illuminates the trends of words that would take lots of time to gather data upon otherwise. I found it interesting to see the correlation between these different words, and I never would have guessed that words such as “respect,” “dignity,” and “chivalry” would be taking a turn for the better, but Ngram has fueled my sense of hope.


Blog Post 1: “consumption” v. “tuberculosis”

I was interested in observing the chronicle of the terms “consumption” and “tuberculosis” in relation to history of the disease. Tuberculosis is an ancient disease that was named “tuberculosis” in 1839. The first vaccination against it was created in 1906 and began being used in France in 1921. Screen Shot 2014-01-29 at 2.01.33 PM

When looking at the Ngram viewer I was not surprised at the results I received due to the fact that “consumption” has multiple meanings.  Also, the spikes in the term “tuberculosis” correspond to its naming as well as its immunization dates.  After clicking on the links to the Google Books for the word “consumption” I gained more perspective on the definition during different time periods. All of the top results listed from 1700-1956 related to the disease while the top results from 1957- present dealt with consumption of food and consumption in the economic sense. This also explains the steady incline of the use of the word consumption into the 21st century.

After doing some more research on the history of the disease I learned that the word “Phthisis”  means “consumption” in Greek and Hippocrates was said to have written about phthisis as being the most deadly disease of his time (460 B.C). Although Ngram does not have a Greek language option I searched the word under English and saw similarities in the spikes on the timeline.

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I think the use of Ngram as a mapping tool is very effective but a lot of outside research was necessary to make real discoveries. By not having Greek as a language option and  not being able to go back in time to 460 B.C in my search it limited my abilities. However, I found it helpful in determining the main uses of the words during different time periods.





An Online Home for Your Group

Your project groups are in the process of selecting texts to focus on for the project, and in class, we’ll take a look at some projects that students in a similar class at another institution completed.

Beyond picking a text you think you’d like to work on, I’d like the groups to begin pursuing two other tasks for the week ahead.

First, establish an online presence for your group distinct from our class home page. I encourage you to use WordPress for this. We’ll link to your group’s page from the home page. You can do this in a few ways, each of which has some advantages/disadvantages:

    • Use Collab. As a member of the UVA community, you can create a Collab site to which each member of your group belongs. If you enable the WordPress tool, it will establish a WordPress site for the group. I used to do this for all my classes, but I wanted a bit more control, so now I host my own WordPress sites. This is dead simple, though, except for some minor complications with how you set user roles. You can read about this tool here.
    • Use It’s easy to set up a blog on, and it gives you a fair amount of free space. You give up some customizability (you need to pay, for example, for access to CSS), but it’s a nice implementation of WordPress that will let you create a decent WordPress site.
    • Host a WordPress site yourself. If you have a domain name/web space, or if the group wants to pool resources to buy web space, this is also an option. This gives you the most control, but it’s a bit more complicated (and costs money).

Once your group has a site up, begin customizing it. Work on an initial post describing what the work is thinking about doing, and post a link to your project’s online home from the course blog.

The other project-oriented task I’d like the group to begin working on now involves “the competition.” Do some online research to figure out what’s out there about your text(s)/topic already, from Wikipedia pages, to other online resources, to Gutenberg/Google Books texts, etc. Begin collecting examples of what else is out there. In the next weeks, we’ll think about what your project will have to contribute that these other resources don’t.

Blog Post #1 – “God” vs. “god”

When we were initially asked to do this assignment by utilizing the Ngram Viewer application, I immediately thought of the usage and context of the words “God” and “god” in recent and former years. In reference to the Oxford English, there is no differentiation between the definition of the capitalized representation of “God” and, respectively, the lower case “god.” Thus the OED defines “God/god” as such: “a superhuman person who is worshipped as having power over nature and the fortunes of mankind; a diety.” However, there is a slight distinction between the two terms in the Merriam Webster Dictionary. In this particular context, “god” is defined as a person established in the love of god by divine promise while the term “God” is defined as a singular entity who is “the perfect and all-powerful spirit or being that is worshipped especially by Christians, Jews and Muslims as the one who created and rules the universe.” In order to further understand the distinction present, it is vital to examine the contextuality of the term and its usage. The term “God” is particular to American society as the United States of America was founded on Biblical principles and, to this end, “God” serves as the presiding figure of these said principles. Thus, it is interesting to consider the ways in which both “god” and “God” came into usage in American society and to examine the lens from which they were interpreted.

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Surprisingly, there has been a decline in the representation of the term “God” over the years, specifically starting at the turn of the mid-1840s. There is also not a strong presence or usage of the term “god.” This validates my previous point about the context of the usage of the term “God” in American society in former years. However, I ponder what the significance of the consistently unexploited term “god” functions in American society and how this could potentially develop in the years to come. 

Blog Post 1, Group B

As we head into our second week of short blog posts, we’ll hear from Blog Group B. To reiterate: last names up through Hu should post with Group A, and last names from Kim on should post with Group B.

Now that some of your classmates have done initial experiments with the OED and with Google Ngrams, I’d like Group B to experiment a bit more with the parameters and settings that Ngrams allows. Either build from one of your classmates’ experiences with Ngrams, or design a new set of words to consider.

The “Advanced” section in Google’s information on the NGram viewer will reveal new parameters you can play with in your search. You can, for example, make your search case-insensitive, compare the corpus of English to the corpus of English fiction, search words according to parts of speech, or use wildcards to expand your searches. If we search, for example, “digital *”, Google will reveal Ngrams for the top 10 search hits of that phrase.

Screenshot 2014-01-27 14.25.13Apparently, “digital computer” was very hot as a phrase when “computer” needed specification as a type. Now, we just assume that computers are digital, so it’s largely waned in usage.

In addition to these new search tools, you’ll notice the various links Google supplies underneath the Ngram viewer. These will take you to Google Books searches for the phrases in question, but isolate those phrases by a range of years.

Screenshot 2014-01-27 14.28.23If I want to see some typical examples of how “digital computer” was used between 1972 and 1974, I could see the top hits from Google Books for those years by clicking that link.

By tweaking the parameters and looking into some actual search results, we can get a bit more context about how these words were used at any given time.  So blog group B: your goal is to do a new search, or extend an old one with some of the “Advanced” Ngram parameters taken into account, and then to click through some of these links on the bottom of the page to get a sense of how the words in context read differently or confirm the more blunt information that an Ngram gives us. Then, as before, reflect on the experience–do the new parameters give you more faith in the information? Does being able to click through to Google Books search results make this a better research tool?



Blog Post #1: “Segregation” vs. “Integration”

I set out to make an observation about the relationship between the terms “segregation” and “integration” to draw a conclusion tying in closely with the civil rights movement. To supplement my light “research,” I perused the OED for a definition/year of usage that seemed to best fit the context of race relations that were contested so hotly during the civil rights battles in the United States.

In 1903, “segregation” was first used to denote “the enforced separation of different racial groups in a country, community, or institution” whereas in 1940, “integration” began to signify “the bringing into equal membership of a common society those groups or persons previously discriminated against on racial or cultural grounds.”

From a historical standpoint, these dates make sense. 1903 marked the turn of the century, a time of rapid change which, at least in America, grappled with relationships between African-Americans and white people in a disheveled post-Reconstruction nation. In 1940, America found itself closing up the wounds of an economic depression only to be shaken awake by the booms of world war a year later. This sudden shift in agenda rallied together all citizens, regardless of skin color, for a common cause, even if it seemed to only foster a short-lived period of harmony, judging by postwar American suburban conflict.

However, when looking at the Ngram Viewer, a different version of history presents itself. It seems the intersection between the two opposing words occurs at 1920 — a time before both the Great Depression and the tumult felt through the world via World War II. In fact, the Roaring Twenties were a time of financial excess, government corruption, and Fitzgeraldian decadence — so perhaps the upswing on the usage of “integration” tackled its disambiguative properties as a word to describe the economic conglomeration of assets? This is one of the shortcomings of viewing things through this graph: numbers don’t equal tangible causal relationships.

Furthermore, Google Books probably pulls from academic sources from all over the world to consolidate its database into large indexes of data. To draw jingoistic conclusions that favor an Americanized portrayal of word usage ignores a large chunk of the literate, scholarly population. Although in landmark instances a useful tool for visualizing the historical context of the English language’s changes and revisions, the Ngram Viewer doesn’t work well with words that have multiple meanings.

Blog Post #1: Love vs. Sex

I was interested in comparing the historical significances of two somewhat related terms: Love and sex.  According to the OED, love–“a feeling or disposition of deep affection or fondness for someone”–is a word as old as the English language itself.  While “sex” obviously has many definitions, I was interested in the one most related to the word “love”: “Physical contact between individuals involving sexual stimulation; sexual activity or behaviour, spec. sexual intercourse, copulation. to have sex (with) : to engage in sexual intercourse (with).” Used in this particular way, “sex” is only about a hundred or so years old–a fact which was pretty surprising.  While one word refers to people’s emotions, the other refers to a physical act. I was interested in seeing how these terms intersect (if they even do) in more contemporary literature.

Using Ngram, I found that “love” has been used much more frequently than “sex.” However, though there has not been any intersection of the terms to date, “love” is on the decline, and “sex” is on the rise.  The use of “sex” was pretty consistent until about 1920 possibly due to the cultural edge of the Roaring Twenties.  Around the time that this particular usage of “sex” cropped up (around 1900), the term “love” began its gradual fall. This makes me wonder: What terms were people using to refer to the act of sexual intercourse before 1900?  Were those terms mainly euphemistic? Were people using “love” as a substitute?  How often were these words interchangeably used?

I predicted that “sex” would be on the rise, but the downfall of “love” sheds a new light on this issue.  Does this mean that society is more sex-crazed than ever before, or that we are starting to value hook-up culture more than actual romantic relationships?  I don’t think that the rise of “sex” is a bad thing at all, but I am a little concerned about the degeneration of “love.”

Overall, I think the OED was more helpful in giving me specific information regarding the history of words.  Also, Ngram could not detect which definition of the word “sex” or “love” I was referring to.  However, the graph that Ngram provided gave me a clear picture of where these terms are headed.  I think that these tools, when used in conjunction, can give us a lot of insight into how  and why our language is perpetually shifting.



Blog Post 1 – Musket, Rifle, and Tank

One way I thought was an interesting way of using the ngram viewer was as a record of world events.  I noticed when we were toying with the ngram viewer in class that the word “submarine” spiked around  1915-1917. Even though we were searching the word submarine as the full version of “sub” sandwiches, the word was clearly used in context of war submarines used during the first world war. I thought it would be interesting to use words that not only tracked major wars but also words that would be relevant to each war. For instance, I could have just searched “war” and “peace” (which indeed produced results consistent with major wars) but instead I focused on the type of artillery that was used in each war. I searched “musket” “rifle” and “tank.” These three words reflect major wars as well as the advancing technology of their age. “Tank” does not start to make any major appearances until after the invention of cars and spikes in the 1940s during the second world war. I think that this is an interesting way of looking at the ways that each war is fought differently due to  changing technology. In contrast “musket” spikes (with less intensity and more consistency) around the mid 1750s (Revolutionary War) and again around the 1860s (Civil War) but drops off almost completely after that. By the next major war following the Civil War (which would be World War I) muskets were obsolete and wouldn’t have been used in battle.  I considered searching “mustard gas” but the word did not show up with enough frequency to make an impact on the chart.

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In the Oxford English Dictionary, the word “rifle” first appears as a gun around the same time the word made an appearance on the ngram chart. However, it does not include the time period in which it was popular and has eventually become obsolete compared to new technologies. For this comparison and use, I think that the ngram was more helpful in tracking weaponry trends in warfare.