Glimpses of the Great

When the writer Agnes M. Miall penned a 1923 New York Times Magazine piece about interviewing, she claimed to have invented a new word in that very piece: “interviewee.” Today, the word is used in everyday conversation.

While Merriam-Webster dictionary says the word’s first known use was in 1884, clearly it was essentially unknown by 1923, or else Miall would never claim to have invented it then. Indeed, according to Google Books Ngram Viewer, the word’s frequency in books began to noticeably rise starting somewhere around 1923:

Source:
https://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?content=interviewee%2Cinterviewees&year_start=1800&year_end=2019&corpus=26&smoothing=0

Another interesting finding from that graph: the singular word interviewee and plural form interviewees always ran approximately equal in frequency from the 1920s through 1980s, until the 1990s when the plural interviewees began to break away.

That trend has remained ever since. In 2019, the most recent full year for which data is available, interviewees ran +88% ahead — almost double.

Why? No obvious reason stands out to me. If anybody has a good idea, please post it in the comments.

Glimpses of the Great

Published: Sunday, January 7, 1923

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