Here’s a fun little toy that might eat up a surprisingly hefty portion of your day: a site by Northeastern University professor Benjamin Schmidt that lets you see how often any word in the English language appears in TV or movies from the last 80 years.
Using Culturomics’ Bookworm tool, Schmidt has created a site that lets you track the appearance of specific words and phrases across almost 100,000 movies and TV episodes. The site scans text files available from closed-captioning site OpenSubtitles.org for the requested words or phrases, and then spits out a graph showing how often they appear out of every million words in a given year—although this measurement, along with almost everything else about the site, can be changed to suit the user’s preference through the option menu in the upper right. So, if you want to see how often TV and movies mention Democrats or Republicans over the years, or talk about Pepsi or Coke, just plug the terms in and see.
The real fun of the site, though, is how customizable it is. Thanks to data from the IMDB, you can narrow your search to genre, production company, country of origin, and even a specific subset of Top 50 TV shows and famous directors. So, if you’ve ever wanted to see which character’s name is spoken most often on Seinfeld (it’s Jerry), or whether Werner Herzog, Woody Allen, or Alfred Hitchcock made more movies that talk about death, the information is only a few keystrokes away. (And for those of you who look at this and only see a tool for figuring out how often “cromulent” shows up on The Simpsons, Schmidt has a separate Bookworm dedicated entirely to the show.)