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    Re: The expression "terrestrial navigation"
    From: Stephen N.G. Davies
    Date: 2017 Feb 20, 09:56 +0800
    Another half cent’s worth. I don’t know if any of you has discovered the incomparable fun of the Google Ngram (swiftly - the use of a massive library of digitised text from 1800-2000 to search for the frequency of use of words and phrases - it is stunningly illuminating) but were you to go to https://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?content=terrestrial+navigation&year_start=1800&year_end=2000&corpus=15&smoothing=3&share=&direct_url=t1%3B%2Cterrestrial%20navigation%3B%2Cc0 you would find a very interesting picture showing what we might call the pulsating fashion of the phrase ‘terrestrial navigation’, with peaks (though that needs parsing as a frequency of between 3 and 9 words in a million) in 1833 (so there’s dear Sir Walter), 1888, 1962, and a curious triple peak in 1988, 1992 and 1996 whence it slumped to between 1 and 2 words in a million up the end of the sampling period in 2000. Interestingly, in the texts sampled between 1800 and 1826 the use is recorded as zero, suggesting, at least in the English language (the ngram viewer will do other languages, but the database is a lot smaller) that 1826 is the first time the term shimmied into view.
    Stephen D

    Dr Stephen Davies
    c/o Department of Real Estate and Construction
    EH103, Eliot Hall
    University of Hong Kong

    Office: (852) 2219 4089
    Mobile: (852) 6683 3754 


    On 19 Feb 2017, at 3:43 AM, Frank Reed <NoReply_FrankReed@fer3.com> wrote:

    Don S, you wrote:
    "The earliest use that I have found is 1831, by Sir Walter Scott in his novel Castle Dangerous, though the usage seems metaphorical."

    Sir Walter Scott... a monkey with a typewriter. :) Wikipedia has a very informative article on the Infinite Monkey Theorem, by the way. In this context, I call that an accidental hit. Words get paired together in innumerable combinations, and the pairing "terrestrial navigation" pops up here and there throughout the available literature. But this new modern usage does not appear in the expected places. To me the most compelling evidence was discovering that there are no books with that phrase in the title except a few accidental cases like extra-terrestrial navigation and, most importantly, those two exam prep manuals (one as yet unpublished!).

    A similar accidental hit, while I'm thinking of it, is the first recorded usage of the word chronometer, around 1718 if I remember correctly. But it does not qualify as the origin of the later word and its still current meaning because it was intended as pure satire --a funny, overly-academic sounding word designed to parody the new scientific lingo of the day.

    Frank Reed

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