Your email is not valid
Recipient's email is not valid
Submit Close

Your email has been sent.

Click here to send another


A Short History of Words

New Google tool reveals relative popularity of ‘shmuck,’ ‘Zionist,’ other terms

Print Email

The name of the hot new time-waster is Google Ngrams! Google has taken the five and a half million digital books in its database (interesting fact: Yiddish was the first literature to be entirely digitalized), and created a tool that graphs the uses of phrases throughout history.

I now know that schlep and schmuck entered the English mainstream in the 40s, but their use increased rapidly in the 60s and 80s, respectively (thanks Lenny Bruce!). Zionist first arose in the 1910s, hit its peak in the 1990s, and is now at a 60 year low. For a bracing reminder, watch the spike of various words for Jew in the 30s and 40s… except for Hebrew, which hit its epoch between 1810 and 1830s, but declined in the 1940s. Why 1810? What happened? I have no idea.

Apparently, this tool is for scholars. In that vein, and in the holiday spirit, above see Marc Weidenbaum’s (of and creator of Tablet’s Anander Mol, Anander Weig Hanukkah remix album) scholarly exploration of the history of the word C/Hanuk/kah.

Print Email

Daily rate: $2
Monthly rate: $18
Yearly rate: $180

Tablet is committed to bringing you the best, smartest, most enlightening and entertaining reporting and writing on Jewish life, all free of charge. We take pride in our community of readers, and are thrilled that you choose to engage with us in a way that is both thoughtful and thought-provoking. But the Internet, for all of its wonders, poses challenges to civilized and constructive discussion, allowing vocal—and, often, anonymous—minorities to drag it down with invective (and worse). Starting today, then, we are asking people who'd like to post comments on the site to pay a nominal fee—less a paywall than a gesture of your own commitment to the cause of great conversation. All proceeds go to helping us bring you the ambitious journalism that brought you here in the first place.

Readers can still interact with us free of charge via Facebook, Twitter, and our other social media channels, or write to us at Each week, we’ll select the best letters and publish them in a new letters to the editor feature on the Scroll.

We hope this new largely symbolic measure will help us create a more pleasant and cultivated environment for all of our readers, and, as always, we thank you deeply for your support.

Alan Eisenberg says:

1810 CE – Reform Movement begins in Germany
Reform Movement The German Jews who founded the Reform Movement emphasized their loyalty to the “fatherland” in order to be accepted in mainstream German society.

Dan Klein says:

Thanks Alan! That’s awesome.

Hey Elli, I’m not sure, but I think the site you linked to used a different curving function then Mr. Weidenbaum. Just guessing!

Rachel says:

The photo is brilliant. Thanks for the laugh.

tnx so much! was so helpful dude! :)

It’s very good post.

The greatest inspiration is often born of desperation. -Comer Cotrell

I’ve said that least 1071536 times. The problem this like that is they are just too compilcated for the average bird, if you know what I mean

Good work, are you looking for real estate in Lake Mary, FL? Learn where the deals are, get foreclosure lists and find town homes for sale in Casselberry.


Your comment may be no longer than 2,000 characters, approximately 400 words. HTML tags are not permitted, nor are more than two URLs per comment. We reserve the right to delete inappropriate comments.

Thank You!

Thank you for subscribing to the Tablet Magazine Daily Digest.
Please tell us about you.

A Short History of Words

New Google tool reveals relative popularity of ‘shmuck,’ ‘Zionist,’ other terms

More on Tablet:

Klinghoffer at the Met

By Paul Berman — John Adams’s masterpiece is about an American Jew murdered by Palestinian terrorists, but the real opera is off stage