X is the new Y for 2007

The Boston Globe’s Ideas section today features an updated version of my “X is the new Y” diagram. [Update: it’s actually the front page feature of the Ideas section. Thanks to Kelly for the picture…]

Originally inspired by the LeisureArts chart from 2005, I decided to bring the idea up to date in September. Essentially, it’s a few pages of results from a Google search for “* is the new *” (and “* are the new *”). For this latest version I also added “+2007” to the search term, so it picks up things that happened (or were at least written about) in 2007. I then ran the results through some basic text processing. “x is the new y” became “x -> y”. This happens to be the required syntax for Graphviz, which then automatically drew the directed graphs for me.

X is the new Y - 2007

(bigger version)

The search was a bit of a manual process, and I ended up doing additional searches in order to flesh out the diagram (oh.. pirates are the new ninjas.. I wonder what are the new pirates… I’ll search for “* are the new pirates”).


All of this is very similar to my first pass at this idea in September except this latest version, being 2007 specific, misses out more general links and includes culturally specific recent references such as the werewolves -> vampires -> zombies -> pirates -> ninjas chain (which I’m really happy about) as well as the iPhone and a few other recent highlights of this year.

Drake Bennett at the Boston Globe wrote a thoughtful piece about it.

If you want to know what happened in 2007, you could do worse than noting what it was that people decided was the new black, or the new oil, or the new golf.

Because it is so ubiquitous and so adaptable, because it so easily captures the human mind’s penchant for analogies, and because it is constantly rendering itself obsolete (what is the new iPhone? who is the new Amy Winehouse?), this off-the-shelf rhetorical device makes an ideal marker of a year’s conversational currents. The charts here are an unsystematic attempt, culled from Web searches, to trace the patterns that emerge.

Eventually, sapped by this sort of subversion, the phrase might have to give way to another equally handy one. What the new “new black” would be remains anyone’s guess.

The Boston Globe – ‘The new, new things of 2007’ – December 30, 2007

The team at the Globe took my ugly diagrams, which looked like this…


…and turned them into something beautiful, like this…


If you don’t happen to get the dead-tree version, you can read the article on the Boston Globe site.

x is the new y

Inspired by this lovely visualization (which I discovered recently via the always-interesting Information Aesthetics blog) of what was the new what in 2005, I decided to bring it up to date. Here’s what I ended up with after a couple of hours of hacking. Around 160 relationships in the form x is the new y.

x is the new y

The layout was entirely automatic, thanks to Graphviz.

Firstly, I used Google to collect results from the query “is the new” and “* is the new *”, collecting a list like this

  • Pink Is The New Blog
  • Green Is The New Red
  • Blood Is The New Black
  • fake is the new real
  • Small is the new big
  • Vegetarian is the New Prius
  • Quiet Is the New Loud

I actually had quite a bit of manual intervention at this stage (more than I realised would be necessary), removing such results as “The Oxford English Literary History is the new century’s definitive account of …” and a few others that didn’t interest me.

Next, since the capitalization being all over the place was going to hurt the automatic graphing, I globally replaced all words with their lower-case, except where it looked more attractive not to. Then, I replaced “is the new” with ” -> “, so the file would be valid dot syntax, like this

  • pink -> blog
  • green -> red
  • blood -> black
  • fake -> real

Already, I could use the `dot` and `neato` Graphviz tools, and entertained myself by checking and tidying the results still further.

x is the new y - detail 2 x is the new y - detail 1

But for the final render in neato I adding some extra touches to the .dot source…

digraph g {

  edge [
    len = 1.2

  graph [
    center = true,
    start = 42

  node [
    shape = plaintext,
    fontname = Tahoma

  overlap = false
  splines = true
  sep = .1

  pink  ->  blog
  green  ->  red
  blood  ->  black
  fake  ->  real
  small  ->  big

And there we have it. I’d really like to make something which allows me (and you) to delve into chosen terms interactively. Seeing the interesting cluster around Facebook, even in such a small set of relationships, made me want to see what else was lurking around “* is the new Facebook”, and “Facebook is the new *”. In fact, I thought the same thing about pretty much every node in the graph. So, something else for the todo list then.

Update: I explored trails starting from Facebook (manually searching, for now) and came up with another set of data. Here are two graphs generated from that data, rendered using dot and neato respectively.

y is the new z (dot)

y is the new z (neato)

I think I prefer the (less formal looking) neato example, though there are some nice features of the vertical flow in the dot graph too.

Update: this idea later got an update for the end of 2007, and was even printed in the Boston Globe.

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