Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

What is the historical frequency of the expression “and/or”?

I have a feeling that I almost never see it in older texts, but that it is has become exponentially common in the past five or ten years.

However, Google’s Ngram Viewer doesn’t seem to work because of the slash.

Any suggestions? Or does anyone already have data on the historical frequency of “and/or”?

share|improve this question
    
Ngrams will return occurrences of "and/or" in the search results for "and or". A cursory look seems to indicate that the slash became more common after 1915 or so, but someone else may be able to go deeper than this. –  Cameron Oct 11 '12 at 2:36
    
See ngrams for and / or,and/or,and or where the graph works ok (but not the book links) when spaces are added –  jwpat7 Oct 11 '12 at 12:54
add comment

1 Answer 1

up vote 4 down vote accepted

Using the Corpus of Historical American English (http://corpus.byu.edu/coha), it appears your assumptions are correct. That corpus tool doesn't allow for the embedding of the charts it generates, but here are the numbers:

1860s - .06 times per million
1870s - .11 times per million
1880s  through 1910s - not at all
1920s - .31 times per million
1930s - .61 times per million
1940s - 1.15 times per million
1950s - 3.46 times per million
1960s - 7.51 times per million
1970s - 6.42 times per million
1980s - 10.43 times per million
1990s - 10.59 times per million
2000s - 13.53 times per million

You should be able to visit the corpus yourself to do a keywords in context search (if you're interested in that). The search term there would be "and?or" (where the ? represents a single wildcard character ... this gets around the slash problem and relies on the fact that there is no English word or phrase with any character there except and/or).

enter image description here

share|improve this answer
1  
These are the figures I get for AND/OR on COHA: TOTAL, 1870, 1920, 1930, 1940,1950, 1960, 1970, 1980, 1990, 2000 1415, 1, 7, 15, 28, 85, 180, 144, 262, 294, 399. –  Kris Oct 11 '12 at 6:16
1  
Correct ... those are the raw frequencies within the corpus itself, leading to the ratios above. –  jlmcdonald Oct 11 '12 at 6:18
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.