Writing Tip – Finding the Right Words

When do you think the word cool became so “cool”? Ever wonder how long popular expressions have been used?

In a 1930s-era movie I heard an actress use the word swell to express her agreement with another’s plan. I think it was Follow the Fleet with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.

As I remember, the line was “that would be swell,”  and it shocked me to hear it’s use in such an old film.

Before the 60s swell was how ocean waves behaved, but using it to show agreement or joy had been invented by my peers, according to my superior knowledge of such things. It’s typical, isn’t it, how each generation tends to think we’ve come up with something never before known?

My more accurate education came by way of Google’s Ngram Viewer.

In the viewer you can type in any word to see where in history it shows up, and when it rose or fell in popularity.

It’s especially valuable for writers who want an accurate tool for historical research. Here, try it out.

There are advanced features that hurt my head, but may prove valuable in the future when I might wish to increase my smartness. With a little study it’s possible to search with different languages, alternate spellings, compare verbs and nouns, and so much more.

How I would have loved playing with the Ngram Viewer when I was in seventh grade and had only my grandmother’s hefty dictionary and the  phone book to satisfy my hunger for words.

by Kathy Sheldon Davis