Google’s Ngram is out. Everyone is plugging in words.

Google’s Ngram is out. Everyone is plugging in words.

Nick Wingfield asked Ngram to track the word “awesome.” This is the little word that could, emerging sometime in the 19th century and climbing steadily for 100 years. It spikes after World War II, and peaks around 1980, dipping briefly and oddly, Nick notes, at just around the time it was embraced by Jeff Spicoli (the Sean Penn invention in Fast Times in Ridgemont High).

This little word changed horses in the middle of the stream. In the 19th century, “awesome” meant “capable of inducing awe.” At some point it came to mean “good, very good” as in “Dude, that’s so totally awesome.”

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