by Roger Pynn
A CBS “Sunday Morning” story caught my eye this past weekend. That happens almost every week, but as someone who is often in the role of copy editor, John Blackstone’s report really struck home and reminded me how often I’m looking for a synonym.
I’m frequently faced with a paragraph (sometimes even a sentence) where the writer uses the same word twice … or even thrice. Now, at least there’s a tool … thanks to Google having digitized a database of more than 5.2 million books published since 1500 … to show us how the history of overused words.
You can search for all kinds of words and how they’ve been used over and over and over again … or when they peaked as terms writers liked to use … or when they fell out of favor in the literary world.
For instance, I wondered about the word I just used to refer to three of something and asked Google labs Books Ngram Viewer to tell me the history of “three times” and “thrice” over the past half millennium and got this incredible perspective.
I guess I’m about 400 years behind the curve, but I still like the sound of thrice.
Then, I thought, how about some of those annoying terms that I’ve been wishing lately would peak … like “awesome” and “dude”? I’m afraid, when looking at this chart, that we’re nowhere near the end of “awesome, dude!”