Concealed Carry Fun with Google Ngram

My writing accountability partner recently turned me on to Google Ngram. The search engine lets you you electronically comb through millions of books in Google’s database for certain words or phrases. (You can read about the technical details on Google or Wikipedia.)

I searched for the phrase “concealed carry” as a case-insensitive phrase and the engine returned the following chart.

Google NGram Concealed Carry


Because the phrase has to appear in 40 or more books per year to register on the chart, the fact that it shows up in 0% of the books before 1980 doesn’t mean the phrase never occurs. But it doesn’t commonly occur through the 1980s, and then starts picking up in the 1990s — surely a lagged effect of Florida passing its concealed carry law in 1997 given the time it takes most people to publish books. The term steadily rises through the 2000s (the Google database ends in 2008). I don’t put much stake in the decline from 2006 to 2008, since we don’t see a big downward trend in either of the other spellings during that time. Without seeing the period from 2008 forward it is hard to know if it is just a blip or if it marks a trend.

It is interesting to note that by 1994 the term “Concealed Carry” — CAPITALIZED to signify it as an entity — begins to appear and remains relatively stead through 2008.

No major insight here. Just some fun with Google Ngram that further documents the rise of concealed carry in American since 1987.


  1. Not a “rise” in concealed carry. A rise in the number of times the term is found in the corpus of books scanned by Google. But we don’t know in what context that phrase is being used in those books (comic book vs. a science journal, for example,) nor whether the OCR technology being used is accurate. There are too many unknown variables in short time-frame ngrams to get a sense of what they mean. If you want to have fun: run the same ngram, combining “gun rights”, “concealed carry,” “open carry,” “gun control,” from the beginning of the scale. You get a much different picture. Those first three phrases are barely perceptible in the corpus prior to 1960 and thereafter at a very low rate. However the term “gun control ” appears in thousands of entries more through 2008. This suggests to me that the idea of gun control is in the popular imagination and social conscious far more intensely than the other three terms and has been for far longer.


    • Thanks for this correction. I should have said a “rise in interest in concealed carry” as reflected in books containing the phrase. And certainly there could be some “measurement error” affecting how often the term appears, but I don’t think that leads to the conclusion that we cannot “get a sense of what they mean.” They are one measure of one type of interest in the phenomena represented by the words we search. The rise in interest in concealed carry as reflected in books containing the phrase also does follow the dramatic expansion of concealed carry in the United States after 1987. So, this gives me some confidence that the Google Ngram is measuring something real.

      Your concluding comments suggests you think the same. Send me your analysis of gun rights in comparison to gun control in Ngram. I would be happy to post it and your analysis of the Ngram to my blog.

      Of course we don’t want to substitute a Google Ngram for other analyses, which is why I called this post “fun with Ngram.”


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