Friday, 30 May 2014

Fun with words

As many other people have done, I went to Google to better understand the meaning of a word (for me it was the word 'discourse').

I went to Google and typed in the following:

I will confess to being none the wiser about what discourse was meant to mean with the Google definitions but what did get me curious was the downward arrow that I could click. Having done so, I was surprised to see the following:

What we are seeing here is a time series chart visualizing the use of the word ‘discourse’. I stopped caring about definitions of the word and started thinking about why this particular word encountered peaks and troughs when it came to its use.

I tried several other examples.

I like this one because it shows how a new word has gradually increased in use.

A very sharp rise here!

This one is my favourite because etymology concerns itself with the origin and development of words. How ironic that over time and space its use has diminished.

I suggest all of you have a play and look for words that have this facility (not all do) in Google. It can be a fun exercise.

My ulterior motive is that it will get you to think about the interpretation and popularity of words and how they can change. New words eventually become old words and get replaced with new words we all start using. Old words can sometimes make a comeback but often accompany a reinterpretation or require an incident. 

With my librarian hat on, perhaps you will also start thinking more about the search terms you put in databases. Librarians often comment about synonyms and having to do OR searches in boolean. The addition I would like to add is to start thinking about the impact of the words you are including/excluding when thinking about search terms for your topic of interest.