The Dim-Post

December 19, 2010

Hypotheses please

Filed under: general news — danylmc @ 9:02 am

Google has a new toy, the ngram viewer. They’ve indexed five million books containing roughly 5 billion unique words and date indexed them, so you can run frequency searches over time. Here’s what New Zealand looks like over the last couple decades:

The most boring explanation is a sample bias in the raw data, but can anyone come up with a more exciting theory as to why New Zealand was a hot subject in the 1980s?

Update: Ah, I’ve answered my own question: the search is case sensitive. Duh. Here’s what we really look like:

And here’s the important graph:

Ha ha! Those Aussies really sucked back there in the early 19th century, huh?

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17 Comments »

  1. The really odd thing is a lot of, but not all, countries have the same peak in their lowercase frequency.

    It’s as if there was a run on very poor gazateers around 1988.

    And talking about gazetting….

    Comment by david winter — December 19, 2010 @ 10:02 am

  2. I suspect an indexing error – some upper-case instances from that period have probably been indexed in with the lower-case instances. Certainly the Google Books search for “new zealand” limited to 1988 isn’t turning up anything other than upper-case instances in the examples I looked at.

    NB: to linguists, this is anything but a new toy – it’s an enormous raw data set that’s going to be very helpful to the people trying to figure out how language works. The data may be all written rather than spoken English, but it’s still extremely valuable.

    Comment by Psycho Milt — December 19, 2010 @ 12:14 pm

  3. am looking forward to seeing some policy proposals to deal with that gap with Oz.

    i’m thinking large and extensive tax cuts would do it.

    Comment by Che Tibby — December 19, 2010 @ 12:35 pm

  4. am looking forward to seeing some policy proposals to deal with that gap with Oz.

    i’m thinking large and extensive tax cuts would do it.

    Well, this is a frequency index of books, so if I understand the logic of the 2025 task force, burning all our libraries and banning all printed records from the country will allow us to close the gap – but it takes political courage from the government to do this.

    Comment by danylmc — December 19, 2010 @ 1:04 pm

  5. What we need is another war.

    Comment by Conor Roberts — December 19, 2010 @ 1:18 pm

  6. And it turns out we can’t even laugh at 19th Century aussies,the world was still talking about them, just under another name.

    Comment by david winter — December 19, 2010 @ 3:23 pm

  7. ” Well, this is a frequency index of books, so if I understand the logic of the 2025 task force, burning all our libraries and banning all printed records from the country will allow us to close the gap – but it takes political courage from the government to do this.”

    Don’t give them ideas. Thank god the buggers are all on holiday.

    Comment by Hamish In Auckland — December 19, 2010 @ 3:30 pm

  8. I’m sorry but this is completely over my head. You lost me at ‘books’.

    Comment by Monkey Boy — December 19, 2010 @ 3:32 pm

  9. i’m not sure i follow you Danyl. i’d suggest shutting down the health sector and putting all the money into subsidizing privately-run printers. they can churn out boxes entirely consisting of the two phrases ‘New Zealand!!’ and ‘punching above their weight’.

    Comment by Che Tibby — December 19, 2010 @ 4:21 pm

  10. Boxes? please substitute “books”.

    i’d suggesting hiring editors, but they’ll just be a drain on the economy. if you can’t read properly then i’d suggest moving to australia. you’ll feel right at home.

    Comment by Che Tibby — December 19, 2010 @ 4:22 pm

  11. “but can anyone come up with a more exciting theory as to why New Zealand was a hot subject in the 1980s?”
    I was going to suggest nuclear-free stance and free-float, but then read on to see that it was all down to a typo.

    Comment by Clunking Fist — December 19, 2010 @ 8:31 pm

  12. Apparently the internet was a hot topic at the turn of the century

    Comment by gazzaj — December 19, 2010 @ 10:09 pm

  13. am looking forward to seeing some policy proposals to deal with that gap with Oz.

    The ratio is about two-to-one. As Australia has four times the population we do, and siven times GDP, this consititues New Zealand punching well above our comparative weight.

    I note that the gap expands most rapidly during the 1970’s – the last time we had a truly left wing Government.

    Comment by Phil — December 20, 2010 @ 9:33 am

  14. The earth is warming faster than I realised.

    Comment by ZenTiger — December 20, 2010 @ 4:00 pm

  15. S’good fun, n’est-ce pas? Have been trying it with authors rather than countries – The flashy Brendan Behan roars away to great start but comes a cropper – looks like he’ll have to be shot – while that old tortoise Pat Kavanagh of about the same vintage plods away and overtakes him by 2000. My fancied favourite WB Yeats fades badly- Dylan Thonmas outpeaks everyone else in the Celtic Stakes….

    With NZ authors, its a one-horse race. Frame all the way

    Comment by Leopold — December 20, 2010 @ 4:15 pm

  16. PS – Try Bob Dylan vs Beatles – interesting result – not what I expected

    Comment by Leopold — December 20, 2010 @ 5:06 pm

  17. Someone had to do it. Tried Phil Goff and John Key.
    Phil peaking on 2000, (after flatlining for last 200 years)
    John Key’s high point ca 1840

    This is bad for Phil Goff

    Comment by leopold — December 20, 2010 @ 7:55 pm


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