People Write about Wes

If the Shoutbox is any indicator, people are interesting in seeing Wesleyan’s popularity play out through history.  Google’s new Ngram Viewer shows trends of how often a phrase has occurred over time in a certain corpus (e.g. American English, English Fiction, Russian) of texts.  They’ve yet to scan every book ever, but they want to.

Wesleyan does pretty well, especially in recent times.  Here’s how often “Wesleyan University” appears in “English”:

Google Ngrams: Wesleyan v. Williams. v. Amherst

I set the start date here to 1793, when the first of these schools (Williams) was founded.  You can see Wesleyan (blue line) shoot right up at 1831 upon its founding.  The first major peak is in the 1910s, maybe related to Wesleyan’s experimentation with c0-education.  After that, the trend is negative until the ’50s, when the positive rise could at least partially be due to the founding of the current version of the Wesleyan University Press in 1957.  There was also some reorganization then as the Butterfield Colleges were formed, but it’s probably mainly due to the rise of our reputation for counterculture (read: “You go to that hippie school where they smoke pot on the hill?!?!”).  The rise lasts till the ’90s.  After that peak, the popularity falls as our endowment rises up to 2008 (the latest Google will go at the moment).

These are just my guesses based on my loose understanding of Wesleyan history.  If you’ve got ideas for why there are bumps or drops in the graphs, post them in the comments.

Here are some other interesting graphs:

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10 thoughts on “People Write about Wes

  1. Pingback: Wesleyan Ranked 4th in College Brand Equity – Wesleying

  2. johnwesley

    It’s difficult to gainsay the impact of something like Wes Press on the general volume of chatter a university enjoys. How that translates into something as ineluctable, as prestige is something only time can tell.

    Wes Press is the direct descendant of the old American Education Publications company (AEP), publisher of “My Weekly Reader” and the launching pad for much of Wesleyan’s growth in the latter half of the twentieth century. To place it within some perspective, compare the phrase “Wesleyan University Press” with the phrase “Tufts University”, the newly annointed successor to Tufts College and the only member of NESCAC to achieve the Carnegie Classification of a research university:

    In other words, with minimal start-up costs and by farming out some functions (Wesleyan owned its own printing plant until the 1970s) it has achieved at least as much “chatter” in the academic world as a similarly situated, small New England college, turned full-blown university.

  3. A-Batte

    Ngrams is really fucking cool, and has great potential for making research easier and producing endless entertaining searches like these. I agree with the guy who reminded us that Trends came first, though. Good times all around.

    1. Syed

      You make a good point, especially for modern times. This is a nice indicator of how we were viewed in the pre-Internet era though.

  4. ____________

    Wouldn’t that search phrase also include “Illinois Wesleyan University,” “Ohio Wesleyan University,” etc? Therefore, we might not be as popular as we think.

    1. Blah

      Look at the other links at the bottom of the post. One shows Wesleyan University vs (Kansas|Ohio|etc) Wesleyan University. The only one that’s at all significant is Ohio Wesleyan, and that peaks around the 1920s.

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