Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Useless and Pointless Knowledge

For no particularly good reason, we were screwing around with Google's Ngram Viewer, a graphable database of all the books they've digitized as part of their Campaign to Control All Knowledge. This thing probably has some value to academic researchers - and we, to put it mildly, are not academic researchers. Still, we thought we'd see how often "Mexico" has appeared in print in English-language books since 1521.

We were kind of fascinated to see that Mexico was written about more frequently during the 1620s than during the 1920s, but we think that may be due to a flaw in the database, which lists all the journals of the American Chemical Society as having been published in 1620. Perhaps it'll be a while before Google takes over the world.

Surprisingly, Mexico is - and apparently always has been - of greater interest to English-language writers than Spanish-language ones. The charts don't match exactly - the top of the chart below [click to embiggen] is about 30% greater than the one above, but it's still striking.

Rather counter-intuitively, it seems the word "wetbacks" is actually on the decline from its early 1970s peak. We attribute this to the fact that books by talk-radio hosts are a relatively new phenomenon, and are all still under copyright. Check back on this one in, like, 70 years.

Sadly, the phrase "Burro Hall" has yet to make its mark on the literary world, having appeared only once that we know of.

Though we assume folks songs are being written about us at this very moment.

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