Saturday, February 9, 2013

Ngramming the Universities

One of my worst time-killing habits is, honestly, messing around with Google Ngrams, the tool which graphs word frequency in the Google Books corpus over time. (I know. I need better ones.) In the past, I've used the tool to show the disappearance of the "long s" from English literature.

Here's another cool ngram graph, which I just posted on Twitter. It's of American university names.

I strongly encourage you not to interpret these as "rankings" of the universities. There are enough of those out there. All this shows is how frequently the name of the university as written shows up in literature. (For this reason, I couldn't graph "Brown," "Penn," or "Columbia." You should also be suspicious of the flip-side effect for the graphed terms.)

(If you click the image, it will enlarge.)


  1. As an alum of Dartmouth, I must say that it's low share as well as its absolute and relative decline are deserved. Dartmouth is boring. I think there is one good novel to be written about Dartmouth, and it would be aggressive, claustrophobic and terrifying in a somewhat existential kind of way. Sort of like "The Stranger" meets "The Rules of Attraction."

    1. Hmm. Note that Dartmouth is actually the top form 1800-1820. It is still relatively significant until the 1900s. It fades probably due to the regionalism of the school as compared to the increasing national level of universities like Harvard and Yale at the turn of the century. Many of the early references, I imagine, also have to do with the Supreme Court case about the school.

  2. Replies
    1. Here you go:

      UChicago is also a climber, like MIT or Princeton.