"The digitisation [sic] of the world’s books reveals how the popularity of English words and phrases has evolved since the 16th century. And the database is now freely browsable online
Last year, the Google Books team released some 4 per cent of all the books ever written as a corpus of digitised text, an event that has triggered something of a revolution in the study of trends in human thought. The corpus consists of 5 million books and over 500 billion words (361 billion in English) dating from the 1500s to the present day.
In a single stroke, this data gives researchers a way to examine a whole range of hitherto inaccessible phenomena. Since then a steady stream of new results has emerged on everything from the evolution of grammar and the adoption of technology to the pursuit of fame and the role of censorship.
Today, Matjaz Perc at the University of Maribor in Slovenia uses this data to examine the evolution of the most common English words and phrases since 1520. "
— MIT Technology Review