Following close on the heels of the Body Browser, Google comes up with another toy, which, on the surface, seemingly has no relation to matters health and fitness, but can actually provide some interesting results: the Google Books Ngram Viewer.
What People Wrote About
What it does is put into a chart with what frequency over time in years words occur in the books Google scanned for their book database. And beside everything else under the sun that people wrote about, we can of course also use this to search for words related to diet, exercise and similar subjects.
Let’s, for an example, take the word “obesity”:
As you can see in the chart, the word picked up a first momentum around the year 1900, but lost it during the Great Depression, when many people fell into poverty and had trouble staying fed. Up from the 1940s we see am almost steady incline again, then a very rapid rise beginning in the 1970s and another drop in the 1980s, which is followed by another rise in the 1990s.
It is interesting to ponder why these occured. The rapid increase in the 1970s can be explained; but why the fall in the 1980s? After all, the percentage of obese in the population hadn’t declined at that time.
Play around with it and try other words. “Carbs”, for example, practically shot to the moon in the 1990s, while “bodybuilding” was almost non-existent until 1980. You can also try combining two words, as I did in this comparison of “vegan” and “vegetarian”.
Graph © Google, Inc.