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Words

We've talked about the kind of language your computer uses, but what about the words that humans use? Google has created a huge database, consisting of 500 billion words, using over five million digitized books that are available to the public for free downloads, enabling scholars to see how words are used in relation to other words. It gives us a year-by-year count of how often various words appear, opening a window into how we think and act.

In the December 16, 2010 edition of the New York Times, Patricia Cohen writes: "With a click you can see that 'women,' in comparison with 'men,' is rarely mentioned until the early 1970s, when feminism gained a foothold. The lines eventually cross paths about 1986." Cohen quotes researcher Erez Lieberman Aiden as saying, "The goal is to give an 8-year-old the ability to browse cultural trends throughout history, as recorded in books."

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