It seems to me that parenthetical plurals have been increasing in recent years. Is there any way to accurately measure this? Google Ngram Viewer seems like a method, but the use of parentheses, first of all, seems a problem.

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    I quite agree with you that parenthetical plurals do pose an issue. It might be wise of you to provide a context to which you speak. In general, it would be impossible to measure the usage of parenthetical plurals everywhere however if we were to reduce this possibly the internet or maybe even internet public forums it becomes a bit more plausible to measure. – Dale Jun 4 '16 at 20:32
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    The practice has been around for 50 years at least, and I haven't noted any obvious uptick in it's frequency of occurrence. If anything I see it less often now than 20 years ago. – Hot Licks Jun 7 '16 at 14:32
  • @Hot Licks. Ok. So your perception differs from mine. I appreciate your view that the opposite may be the case. But I'm also wondering how either way can be shown with data. Google Ngram seems like a good option, but searching for parentheses seems to be a problem. And maybe a more specific corpus would be better, if available, such as all US Federal documents, since this sort of punctuation seem, to me, most prevalent on those types of documents. – curious-proofreader Jun 8 '16 at 0:54
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    Ngram has many merits, but the way it processes data makes it technically impossible to use in this case. – Hot Licks Jun 8 '16 at 0:57
  • And a "roll-your-own" scan of some document database would likely be rendered bogus if you could not somehow "crack" the syntax of the documents and identify parts of speech, since otherwise you'd very often be led astray by things such as "(s)" appearing as a footnote identifier. – Hot Licks Jun 8 '16 at 1:00

While total usage of the world may be a problem to identify, if you are doing this for a class or a paper, then I suggest that you limit your scope.

Keep the scope to something specific and historical, something that isn't increasing exponentially like the 'net or StackExchange, something like the New York Times, USA Today, Washington Post, National Geographic, or a "Journal" for a field you are in.

If one of these, or something similar has a full database and it is searchable, you should be able to get an answer that isn't based simply on availability or population increase.

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  • "Increasing exponentially" means the rate of change is positive and proportional to its current value---which is certainly not the case for the text of standard newspapers and journals you mentioned. It could possibly be true for StackExchange or the internet, but only for a short time. If the proportion is very small, it is almost impossible to tell if growth is exponential, except over a long time period. Conclusion: be very careful about using terms related to exponential growth. – David Handelman Aug 18 '16 at 20:23
  • @DavidHandelman Mathematically speaking, exponential change is when change is calculated using a exponent. Like x squared. Exponent of two. Proportional change is multiplicative. Like 2 times x. Exponential change graphs as a curve. The slope of the derivative line is the exponent. Proportional change graphs as a straight line. The slope is the proportion. Sorry, you triggered the math geek in me. – Xalorous Aug 25 '16 at 0:03
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    @Xaloruous Absolutely wrong. This is what comes of using a technical term without knowing its meaning. Your example, x^2, is quadratic growth, and certainly not exponential. Exponential growth (look it up) is much faster, and as I said, occurs when the rate of change is proportional to the current amount. The rate of change [as x increases] of x^2 is only 2x, which for large x is infinitesimal compared to x^2. – David Handelman Aug 27 '16 at 2:37

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