Thursday, January 23, 2014

REASEARCH: Ngram

My work-in-progress takes place in 1917 so I want to write authentically for the time period.  Which means I don't want to use words that weren't in use then.

Like, you know - Facebook.  Ha!  Okay so that's an easy one.  But there are other words that I really do have questions about. 

And oh thank heaven for Google's Ngram. Until 2 days ago I didn't know such a thing existed but now, thanks to Facebook and my friend Eileen Heyes, I'm all over it!  Ngram is a site where I can look up a word, give a time period, and search for this word in books.  When I do, I'll get a graph showing the results. Here is the graph with results for the word "skeedaddle".  

It's tiny, I know but I hope you can see that I typed  skeedaddle into the search window (just below the word Ngram viewer).  I also indicated what dates I was searching - 1800 - 2000.  (I have no idea what smoothing of 3 means. It was there and I didn't change it. More research for me!)

But anyway at the bottom of the image you can see the dates and yay!  Skeedaddle comes up high on the charts for 1917 time frame.

So my next move was to go to the bottom of the screen and click on the date I wanted to search.

 I clicked on 1895 - 1976 and voila! I got book titles with copyright dates listed.


Then I could click on one of those books and read the word in context.  I chose SIS WITHIN which was published in 1913.


The word skeedaddle is highlighted so I can see how it was used in 1913. (At least in this story.)  Of course now that I'm there I can read other parts of the book  And who knows what other goodies I might discover in the process. 

Okay - just wanted to share my little research discovery. Since I have more writing to do, I'm going to skeedaddle. Bye ya'll.

20 comments:

  1. This is fantastic! I've also found diaries to be a fantastic help. One I found online, published by the diarist's granddaughter, and some I've found in the library as bound books in the local history section.

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    1. Diaries are wonderful! It's sometimes challenging to read the handwriting but still wonderful. And especially great when you find one in the family line as you did! Very cool.

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  2. What a wonderful resource! My old lab had an OED and I used to love looking up the origin of words there.

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    1. Ah, yes. OED! Lovely to have access to that.

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  3. Oh, Joyce! Thanks for sharing this. What a great resource. You're a gem.

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    1. You are most welcome, Peggy. Hope it's helpful. It's helped me already.

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  4. Thanks, I needed this for my novel set in 1850. Now if someone would come up with a translator for pioneer talk (instead of pirate talk)!

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    1. Hi Judith,

      Thanks for dropping by. And, seriously. Enough with the pirates. All best with your novel and with the pioneers. I don't have much experience with that era. Hope you are finding great primary sources!

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  5. I really love this. I need to spend more time with it, but thanks to Eileen for turning us on to this and to you for spreading the word.

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    1. Lots of potential here.Like following the trail created by bibliographies. I see how each book which used a given word could lead to more useful info about the time period.

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  6. Fantastic post! Thanks for the truly useful info,
    Gina

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    1. U R welcome,Gina! Hope it leads you to good things.

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  7. Well, you went way further than I did and I'm glad you did. I didn't know you could see books and the word in context. I could get hooked on this! hmmm…"hooked" when was that first used outside of a fisherman's shack?

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    1. Ha Carol - at first it made no sense to me. But once I took a minute to understand what it does, I was impressed.

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  8. Fantastic resource! Thanks so much for sharing with us, Joyce. Sleuth on! (I will be.)

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    1. Hope you find it useful for yourself, too, Clara. Great to hear from you.

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  9. Dear Joyce,
    This is a nifty research gadget! Thanks for sharing.

    Joan

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    1. Yes, Joan - nifty. We could look that word up if we want.

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  10. That's awesome! Thanks for sharing, I'll be sure to use it when I'm writing. I know that is something that has always bothered me when I read historical fiction and there are terms in it that obviously don't belong in the 15th century! :)

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    1. Anna, I know you will pay attention to accuracy in your writing. You do such stellar work!

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