Tuesday, 3 January 2017

More fun with ngrams

So, Foucault claimed that the Victorians weren't repressed about sex – they just talked about it in different registers.

What does the data say? Here's the number of times the word "sex" was used, 1800-2000:
And here is the number of times the word "fuck" was used:
I would say these are pretty good evidence that at least the Victorians talked less openly about sex than we do, especially in a colloquial register. Incidentally, if we zoom in a bit, we can see that "fuck" starts to pick up popularity before 1960. Here is 1820-1960. The highest usage for a century is reached in 1937, and usage picks up again after World War II. Personally I blame the GIs. You see, we can do this now. We can study culture quantitatively and directly, in one of its most basic and pervasive forms – words, language, text. This is so cool.