Google Ngrams

Thank you, Google! This is such a neat tool, and if I had a project that involved more intensive big data-type research, this would be amazing. Google Ngrams allows you to enter search terms, and then it graphs the occurrences of those terms across all of Google Books’ holdings. For now, I played around on it a bit, to see the frequency of the development of some terms, like “undergraduate research” (big spike in the 1970’s!), and “writing” as compared to “crisis of writing.” Most interestingly, I used it to look into something for another project of mine. In my Victorian novel class, I plan on writing about psychopathy and female characters in Great Expectations and Daniel Deronda so I searched for “psychopathy.”

From this graph, I wondered what the earliest uses of it were, so I clicked on “Search in Google Books: 1800 – 1930” and found some very old texts that use the term. But, “psychopathy” was apparently originally used as a term for a different sort of medical healing, one more in tune with the “spirit” and the “body” together. Some Wikipedia perusing confirms that “psychopath” was once a title for doctors/healers who dealt with mental disorders, and that, in some cases, “psychopathy” could be applied to the treatment of physical conditions via “psychological or spiritualist methods.” I had already learned from my research that “psychopathy” was used to describe a wide variety of mental disorders in the nineteenth century, but this emphasis on the mind/body/spirit together is interesting, and may prove useful to me!

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