Google discovers Hitler in 1804

Gol dang it! Why nobody told me of this? Google has a nice little tool, a “Books Ngram Viewer”, which lets you see how often and when in publication-time certain words appear in the vast library of Google Books. The results are fascinating, even given that any word will probably shoot you in the foot, you not knowing all the ways it can be used.

This, for example, is what I got out comparing the use of the terms “great war” (red), “world war” (blue), “first world war” (green) and “second world war” (yellow).

Seems the red line (“great war”) was doomed when we realized we needed ordinal numbers.

Trying to find nice curves for certain historical characters led me, then, into noticing a huge spike in the use of the word (name?) “hitler” in the 1810s and 1830s.

I went deeper, thinking maybe I had found some German general who for obvious reasons had escaped popular biographical attention.

Well, no. For example, Acts and laws of the state of Connecticut, in America, lists this on its page 286, in listing “Degrees of kindred forbidden marriage”:

Mother’s Sister, Father’s Broth- age, er’s Wife, Mother’s Brother’s Wife, Wife’s Father’s Sister, Wife’s Mother’s Sister, Father’s Wife, Wife’s Mother, Daughter, Wife’s Daughter, Son’s Wife, hitler, Brother’s Wife,

and so on. One kind of appreciates the far-sighted sentiment at first, but a look at the non-OCR’d page reveals the relevant word as “Sister”, with the second “s” an “f”-like old one.

Other instances where fonts conspired to fool the machine were “suffer” (with the old “s”, resembling “fuffer”, the closest real word to which was “hitler”), “Hiller” (a Napoleonic general), and pure mistakes like “latter” and “bitter”. Some scans or the originals are so badly printed I couldn’t make sense of their hitlers with a casual look.

The fun thing is, according to the search, these hitlers out of time form a “bump” much bigger than any mentions of the real Adolf. Even a third rise, in the 1880s, easily equals the real chap, before (I guess) the quality of the print and preservation rubbed out these accidental fuehrers. (From 1884: “If a tree is not in fact a part of the crop of fruit growing thereon, I do not understand how it can be made to appear that the taxing of the former is substantially and in effect taxation of the hitler.” Reductio ad Hitlerum, agrarian style!)

Or this:

This stone had undoubtedly been the source of her trouble, and had caused the cellulitis, but the hitler had been increased by dilating and injecting the uterus for the loss of blood due to the obstructed pelvic circulation.

Or even this bit, given a horrible new interpretation:

The billows lift us to the sky ; Trembling, we stretch out feeble hands : We think the hitler end is nigh : ” Master, we perish ! ” then we cry : And on the deck He stands.

I think that’s enough Hitler for anyone’s Christmas week.

One Response to “Google discovers Hitler in 1804”

  1. anatman Says:

    interesting. of course, the ngram viewer is case sensitive. when you spell the name with an initial capital letter, you get a curve that is zero until the thirties,sharply peaks in the forties, then decays as you would expect. thus proving that capital letters are a nazi plot.

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