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Jewish Culturomics

December 21, 2010 | 4:17 pm

As seen in The Jewish Week

Last week, Google, in conjunction with a research team based at Harvard, released a new online tool called the Ngram Viewer that tracks culture through the words of 5.2 million books (4% of all books published). They call the quantitative analysis of this vast amount of data “culturomics,” a new research method in the humanities, linguistics and social science. JInsider test-drove the Ngram viewer (which can be found at www.culturomics.org) using Jewish/religious terms to evaluate how often a word or phrase has appeared and how usage has changed over time. The Ngram tool is incredibly powerful (and slightly addicting) – we encourage you to try your own queries and send any insights to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Christians, Muslims and Jews
We were mentioned the most – especially (in relative terms) during the 1650 to 1750 period – though the trends change significantly if the singular of these words are used (i.e. “Christian, Muslim, Jew”). We are not sure if this is “Good or Bad for the Jews” as the context of the references is unclear. Interestingly, mentions of Muslims don’t begin to appear until the 1940s and ‘50s.


Israel and Palestine
Israel trends down until 1945 at which point usage skyrockets again, while Palestine peaks during WWII, but then falls off. The concept of Israelis and Palestinians both begin to enter common usage in the 1960s.


God, Food, Sex and Drugs
The big guy (no gender intended) beats alternative diversions. He has slipped in recent times, but still remains the king of content.


Basic Jewish Food Groups
Bagel is the dominant winner by a shmear. Seasonal matzah is second with kugel and gefilte fish consistent laggards.

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