Ngrams are Addictive

Google has a new Ngram tool, which searches Google Books as a corpus of English.  An Ngram, if you don’t know, is a graphic plot of the frequency of tokens in a corpus.  From it, one can draw — oh, all kinds of conclusions, some valid, some ridiculous.  But you can point out interesting correlations.  For example, take a look at this one:

Magic Energy

Notice that “magic” stays mostly steady at the bottom, and “energy” rises dramatically in the middle of the twentieth century?  What does that tell you?

Or how about this one:


Now, of course, if you read this closely, you’ll see those numbers on the left-hand side are small, so don’t make much of this statistically, but it’s an interesting toy.


See that little tophat right there in the line, around 1900?  Who do you think is responsible for that?

ETA:  As a commentator points out, this is a little early for Crowley’s publications.  Yet there is a bit of a spike.  You can search for specific years, and in doing so, I found that they were mostly citations of some of the older stuff.  I wonder — could a young Crowley (about 25 at the time) have run into such citations and been inspired by them?  Meh, it’s all speculation, but it’s kind of neat anyway.


4 Responses to “Ngrams are Addictive”

  1. On the magick tophat, I am not sure—but we do know that it is not Aliester Crowley, for his writing comes after that tophat.

  2. theunfamousfraterd Says:

    I am curious what caused the “bump” in the Wicca ngram around 1860.

    The numbers are so small, that could be one reference, of course.

  3. I guess the energy trend came from New Age misinterpretation of old systems. I am myself a Qi Gong practitioner so energy has some place in my life. Still I like your informational paradigm, New Age energetic model is simply too fluffy. Not speaking about that energy is anywhere around us and is filling us as well so it shouldn’t be an issue.

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