’tis the season: bibles, ngrams & cut and paste

my husband just pointed out a fascinating little piece in the Jan 2012 issue of Smithsonian (and this in response to my announcing amazement at finding reference to Google’s Ngram Viewer in National Geographic’s December 2011 piece on the King James Bible; more on that below) – the article describes the making of Jefferson’s Bible, which is (more accurately) an 84-page biography of Jesus of Nazareth, noteworthy for its Greek and Latin verso pages and French and English recto pages constructed entirely (I think) by – literally – cutting and pasting (Jeffersonially: ‘extract[ing] textually from the Gospels’) select ‘historical’ (i.e. stripped of miracles and mysticism) verses into the codex. More than just a foray into the original meaning of cut and paste, very much  worth checking out:

now back to google Ngrams: the print version of the National Geographic piece on the King James Bible  devotes three pages to a word cloud depicting the relative frequency of 18 ‘classic phrases’ in the English language which derive from the King James. Generated from Ngram Viewer data, the visual makes a striking statement about the bible’s influence on English and will be interesting to revisit spring term in my History of English class, where our discussions of the Reformation and biblical translations will find new intersections with our discussions of Google’s Ngram Viewer.

(apologies for the quality of the image below, which is a very hasty scan of p. 50 from the print Dec 2011 National Geographic issue).