Sunday, January 30, 2011

Trail Information on Google's NGram Viewer

While reading the Sunday newspaper, I discovered an internet tool called the NGram Viewer by GoogleLabs.

Using the NGram Viewer, it is possible to compare the popularity of words and phrases over a long period of time and from one generation to the next.

"What does this have to do with trails," you may ask?

So I used NGram to compare trail related terms and how frequently they've been used over the years.
First, I compared the phrases hiking trail, biking trail, rail trail, equestrian trail, bike trail, multi-use trail, and family trail. Sorry the graphs (below) spill over into the right margin, but when I tried to publish the smaller versions, they were awfully difficult to read.
Hiking trail was consistently the most popular from the 1930s until present time. Bike trail was next most popular, biking trail 3rd, equestrian trail 4th, rail trail 5th with multi-use and family trail taking up the rear.

Next, I compared the words street, road, path, and trail. The results of this popularity poll were predictable, but with a pleasant surprise:

While the words street and road were the undisputed champions up until the 1960s, the word path began to vie with street for dominance. And then, in the late 1970s, path forged ahead of street and stayed that way. I was a little disappointed that trail has gained more headway, but at least it hasn't gone down in popularity like both street and road.

Next, I compared some specific trails to each other. Only one conclusion can be reached by the accompanying data; the Katy Trail is by far the most well-known of our nation's long-distance trails. So congratulations to Missouri for having such a successful trail. That is definitely something to be proud of.


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