Where Have All the Robots Gone?

What’s in a word? Letters. Vowels, consonants, grammar occasionally.

Words are by far the greatest invention of humanity. Words are singularly responsible for civilization – and all the great and good, and evil and bad that that implies. I’m not a logophile as such, but I do love words. It’s part of the reason I aspire to be a writer, working with words is fun, and usually quite safe. Though there are some very dangerous words out there.

Words do have power though, in theory they shouldn’t. When spoken their just a random collection of noises we’ve learned to pattern together, likewise when they’re written it’s just scratchings in a small place. But these patterns are ingrained on our childish brains, and reinforced through strict regimes of practice, and necessity. And because our brains aren’t perfect, those patterns get loaded with a load of useless data as well – whether it’s random trivia, a memory, or an emotion. We love to charge words with emotions, and the emotions give the words far greater intent.

So, when clearing out some of my Twitter favourites from the past three years, (on my personal account, rather than my newer and not yet swamped in favourites writer twitter account), I came across this little gem.

While you’re at it, check out the Google Ngram of “literally” use over the years: http://j.mp/gkxMHR

Posted back in June 2011.

The word literally doesn’t do a great deal for me, but as soon as you see that tool – you can’t help but start firing words at it. And so I did, and it’s amazing the stories you can see in the graphs it produces. I set the Ngram Viewer to English, rather than English fiction. I wanted to see the effect on the whole of the English language dataset, rather than on fiction. With fictional elements, and concepts, obviously the effect will be greater in the smaller fictional dataset. Have a play, and see what I mean.

So, to start with I used the theme from today’s flash fic, zombies:

Zombies on Google’s Ngram Viewer

From Word Usage Post

Which as you can see is a fairly recent trend to use it, though I’m intrigued to find the uses of it in the 20’s and 30’s. The word undead shows a similar pattern. I’ve circled the bit I find particularly interesting, zombies are big business at the moment, with a TV series of the walking dead, and a few films due. There’s a zombie survival fitness training app doing the rounds, and numerous live role-playing zombie games going on. Yet while it’s still rising, it looks to be staling, the speed of the rise is slowing considerably.

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