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.

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