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Word popularity rises, falls every 14 years: study

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London: Popularity of a word tends to oscillate over 14-year periods, according to scientists who analysed data obtained from millions of books, reports PTI. Most people who live very long come to see that some words fall into popularity and then out again, researchers said.

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Some words such as “rad” or “boogie” that come into existence during certain periods of time might disappear never to be heard again. However, most common nouns tend to have a cyclical popularity, researchers found. They are yet to understand why this cycle repeats over 14-year periods.


Researchers from University of Manchester in the UK and the National Council for Scientific and Technical Research in Argentina wrote scripts that were used to dig through almost five million books that have been digitised and stored in a Google database.

The scripts counted every noun encountered, which allowed the users to rank them by popularity year by year. While tracking how the rankings changed over time, they found a pattern, ‘Phys.org’ reported English nouns rose and sank in popularity in 14-year cycles. However, over the past couple of centuries, the cycles have been a year or two longer.

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They also found that some groups of nouns, such as those that referenced royalty, tended to rise and fall together in synced cycles. Other cycles tended to be connected with worldwide events such as wars or the Olympics, they said. The study was published in the journal Palgrave Communications.