Google’s recent release of their database of books makes for some interesting generational research. The Ngram tool gives insights into the comparative occurrence of various words over the last two hundred years (from a large sample of books). Some interesting examples:
Try “sex”. Or try “erotic,” takes off in the Third Turning (Unraveling) 90s just as “sex” tires. Or try “love” (and “death”), which are both less used nowadays than ever before. I had a history prof once who used to say that there was a law of compensation or trade-off, in any era, between thinking about sex and death. Eras obsessed with one regard the other as taboo. In Victorian times, no one could talk about “sex” but everyone talked about “death” all the time. (Just think how much care went into gravestones and funerals!) Today, of course, it’s the reverse.
Try “Man”, used in the 19th c. was used all the time as an all-purpose reference to person, individual, society, etc. (It was used 5 or 6x as much as “woman.”) That ubiquitous usage began declining after 1900—and dropping much faster after the late 1960s.
“Woman” usage has naturally been much flatter, though with a fascinating upward surge in the 3rd Great Awakening (peaking in 1900), a deep downward slide in the 4th and 1st Turning of the 1930s through the 1950s, and a resurgence again starting exactly at the beginning of the Consciousness Revolution.
And these from my friend Pete Markiewicz:
A word jumping in the (old) 2T
Some interesting peaks and valleys