21 December 2010

Historical Reference


Tom Vanderbilt over at How We Drive was playing around with Google's Ngram Viewer in his post about pedestrians. As he wrote: "As I’m sure most of you know, Google’s NGram Book Viewer provides an invaluable window, via written texts of the last century or so, onto what the culture was collectively thinking. Not surprisingly, there’s much to be gleaned here from an urban or transportation point of view."

Cool idea. So I put a few search phrases through the machine. Above we have "Bicycle" and how many times it was mentioned between 1800 and 2000. A peak in the 1940's, a fall and then a rise again in the 1970's. 

I was interested about the English slang "Bike" and found out that it really has had an interesting journey. As well as having a root farther back than I would have guessed.


Here's the graph for "Cycling". Again, an interesting journey. It really came into its own as a word in the 1970's.

"Velocipede" started early by all accounts and has an up and down existence which lasted much longer than I would have expected.

Here's the graph for the historical references to "cycle track". A sudden and impressive rise in the 1890's and then an even more impressive peak in the 1940's. The typical fall in the 1960's and a rise in the 1970's.

Oh, and not surprisingly, here's the historical graph for "Vehicular Cyclist".

12 comments:

jason tinkey said...

I laughed out loud at your last graph. Nice one.

Bike Jax said...

Mikael, I want you to know that is extremely difficult it is to clean spewed eggnog off a laptop. Distributed there thanks to your last graph.

Paul Martin said...

Hehe :)

kfg said...

"A peak in the 1940's"

In America Schwinn had it's best to date sales year in 1941. There were still people around who remembered The Big One and lot of them went out and bought a bicycle and a spare set of tires; they knew what was coming.

I guess the way to promote cycling in America is to bomb something. Yay!

P.S. I commend your proper pluralization of numbers. It's actually under quite hot attack by American youth. Educated youth even. They are rule bound (possibly under the influence of computer languages) and are distressed by the ambiguity of the proper use of apostrophes. People who speak their plurals in a modern Germanic language may understand it better, since they have retained forms that English has largely abandoned.

"the historical references to "cycle track"."

Until the 40's these would have largely been about velodromes, even in America.

"here's the historical graph for "Vehicular Cyclist"."

Running dead even with "Cycle Chic." :)

Miguel said...

You forgot to check this one out: http://ngrams.googlelabs.com/graph?content=bicycle+helmet&year_start=1800&year_end=2008&corpus=0&smoothing=3

the 80's released the fear mongering...

Klaus Mohn said...

@Paul Martin:
That's funny too, but since cycle chic was coined just a few years ago, this is what's relevant :)

Urbanplannercyclisthousebuilderetc... said...

http://www.googlefight.com/index.php?lang=en_GB&word1=Vehicle&word2=bicycle
this one is much more surprising ;-)

Ricardo said...

Well, nice and all, but when you add 'car' into the graph, the result shows there is still a lot to be done: http://ngrams.googlelabs.com/graph?content=car,bike,cycle&year_start=1800&year_end=2000&corpus=0&smoothing=3

lofidelitybicycleclub said...

Many 'Citizen Cyclists' in the UK will be smiling ruefully at the last graph.

Thank you for sharing :-)

Anonymous said...

"John Forester", there is more than one and I don't know how to disentangle them, does appear relevant.

http://tinyurl.com/28ykbfe

Jim Moore said...

Thanks for the link to this tool which I did not know of, and for the huge chuckles I got reading the last graph. Poor VCs. They'll come around eventually.

I hope you get less snow days now that the days are starting to get longer up there. (Gotta think positive!)

All the best for the holiday season to you and all the citizen cyclists and their supporters everywhere in the world.

Anonymous said...

"Cargo bike" doesn't ring any bells either.