Oliver and I walked through Queens Square in Charlottetown early one evening last week and stopped to read the Boer War memorial. I noticed that it used the word “fellowcountrymen” as a single word, and was curious: it’s something that, if used at all, would be “fellow countrymen” today.

Was this a typo or common usage of the day?


To find out, I turned to the Google Ngram Viewer, which shows frequency in a corpus (a “big collection of books” in library-speak) of a word or phrase.

From 1800 to 2000 in Google’s English corpus, “fellowcountrymen” is a phrase that peaked in about 1895 (the Boer War memorial was constructed in 1903) and has been on the decline ever since:

Fellowcountrymen in Google Ngram Viewer

Compare this to “fellow countrymen” as two words and you see what it gave way to:

Fellow countrymen, as two words in Google Ngram viewer.

Meanwhile, “countrymen” itself is falling more out of favour every day:

What word or phrase has replaced “countrymen” today? Or perhaps none has? Makes me want to become a linguist to find out.


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