During this quiet holiday week, we’ve decided to roll out a new feature on the Pink Blog — something we call the Ngram Faceoff.

Earlier this month, Google Labs launched its Books Ngram Viewer, a powerful (and addictive) piece of technology. Just type in a few words or phrases — and up pops a graph showing how often those words or phrases appeared in books over a certain period of time. For instance, on the Ngram Viewer information page, you can see a chart of “nursery school,” “kindergarten,” and “child care” between 1950 and 200. Note how “child care” languishes for 25 years, but then surpasses both of its counterparts around 1975.

So to spark some conversations, this week — and into the future — we look at some comparisons.

We begin with “hope” and “fear” in American English from 1900 to 2008. Hope (in blue) had a clear lead for most of the 20th century, but fear (in red) has made a rousing comeback and the duo have been locked in a pitched battle for the past generation. (Click the chart to get a larger version.)

19 Responses to “Ngram Faceoff: Hope and fear”

  1. Paul Puckett says:

    Dan, thanks for pointing out this tool. Fear only exists when you have something to lose. From an investor viewpoint, the growth of investments in the 80’s caused many investors to develop large 401k plans and investment accounts. Fear often grows with the growth of net worth. Your chart seems to verify this concept, although it isn’t limited to investors.

    Can’t wait to try out this internet tool, thanks for putting it on your blog!

  2. Corey Blake says:

    Fascinating statistic. As a believer in hope, this is great ammunition in the fight to inspire. I look forward to other relevations you bring to light.

  3. Paul’s take is interesting and one I would not have thought of immediately. Makes me want to see an list/analysis of the books in the early 80s when the two terms merged to see if there are any causal relationships with the larger environment.

  4. Andrew Eldridge says:

    Jeffrey, seeing Paul’s post made me want to try “investing” and “saving”.

  5. Ben Knight says:

    I hope this statistic will be the future truth/proof…

  6. Garry says:

    Here’s an interesting one.
    On ngrams enter: parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme
    You get a chart with: parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, AND scarborough fair
    Yes. Our friends at google mischieviously ADD something to the search. Makes you wonder what OTHER search collections will yield suprises!

  7. Rudy Vidal says:

    Dan,
    Brilliant!
    I was not aware of ngram, but it seems like a great way to measure who is winning, the “good” or “less good” guys.
    certainly love vs. fear tells a great story, I can’t help but wonder if the subject of our love and/or fear is also shifting. Always enjoy your posts and insights.
    thanks for a great year.
    Rudy Vidal
    http://www.rudyvidal.net

  8. Dan, very interesting. You can use this stat clearly in a new brilliant speech. The Ted on intrinsic motivation was extremely good.
    Fear is ruling these days explaining the rise of certain parties I dislike not only in the Netherlands were I live but everywhere in Europe and also in the States. I hope hope returns especially because objectively fear should be less, people outside big cities are most afraid. But it may also be the new century. Thanks for the app and all your insights. Have a wonderful 2011!!!
    PS adding Scarborough Fair might also be seen as a favour? Or do you mistrust Google – fear or hope -:)

  9. You’ve inspired me to spend 20 minutes goofing off with it. Thanks… here’s the best one I came up with:

    “He who sacrifices freedom for security deserves neither.”
    – Ben Franklin

    Frequency of freedom vs. security: http://osmos.is/fsLVe8

    Although, “good” vs. “bad” was fun too.

  10. Wgmaher says:

    Interesting to note- the only time fear topped hope was from 1988-1998, before the dot.com meltdown, 9/11 and the mortgage crisis. Maybe we need a little stress to feel optomistic?

  11. Judith says:

    Fascinating, and seeing the decline of hope reminds me of the point you made in a whole new mind. People who were following traditional values and believed that when you did all the right things your life would be secure, found that accounting, law and a whole myriad of other safe careers were trashed and they had to change the journey planned and find a new way to navigate….so in addition to my feeling intrigued by the website and eager to track what has happened to concepts like greed, honesty, loyalty, faith, ambition, I relate well to the convergence of hope and fear.
    We do and will continue to tread water in these areas and will continue to discover alternative ways to live. Your ideas have been very helpful in my journey.

  12. help,faith,volunteer,giving,philanthropy,love,

    http://ngrams.googlelabs.com/graph?content=help%2Cfaith%2Cvolunteer%2Cgiving%2Cphilanthropy&year_start=1800&year_end=2010&corpus=0&smoothing=3

    interesting to see the dramatic increases in love, faith philanthropy. I guess we are headed in the right direction!!!

  13. Dan:

    Have you typed in autonomy yet? Take a look. Take a look at autonomy, mastery and purpose together.

    Also, look at creativity. As a word it is a relatively new concept, only starting to gain use around 1920 and peaking more recently in the last century.

    Look at autonomy and creativity together as well.

    Thanks for this site. Didn’t know about ngrams. Happy New Year.

  14. Roxy Schneider says:

    Thanks for bringing this tool to my attention.

    Check out “God” vs. “business” !

    I think this is more telling than the giant “Believe” sign on the Macy’s in Hearld Square NY.

  15. Jim Uhl says:

    I did the same thing with the words Leadership/Management. Leaders, we have a lot of work to do!

    Try the same with intrinsic/extrinsic! Guess which one wins?

  16. Aaron says:

    just wondering… should we read anything into choosing Blue for Hope and Red for Fear?

  17. Scott Prengle says:

    A wise and enlightened being once taught that freedom from attachment is the cure for suffering . . . “For him who is wholly free from craving, there is no grief, much less FEAR!” Funny how 2500 years later, the battle is still being waged and the stakes are only increasing. For anyone looking for examples as of fear combatted, I would recommend http://fearlessstories.com/ – a project launched by a student of Seth Godin’s.

    To borrow from their website . . .
    “fear.less is a free online magazine that empowers people through unique stories of overcoming fear. From entrepreneurs, business leaders, artists and scientists to survivors of extreme experiences, these stories demonstrate the hidden potential we have to confront our fears and come out victorious.

    fear.less is our answer to an emergency.”

  18. Bill Doughty says:

    From a Navy perspective — using the core values “honor, courage, commitment” and comparing “Pacific Ocean, Atlantic Ocean” and “submarine, destroyer, carrier”: <a href="http://Visit W3Schools “>Navy Reads

  19. Jan Yanecek says:

    This is great! Try it using literate and illiterate for the same time frame. Very interesting. I’m passing this on to all of the teachers in my building. (H.S)

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