Google’s NGram has been dramatically (over)billed as ‘Culturomics’, and has generated some understandable mutterings. It’s not entirely clear how useful/accurate it is, but it’s supported by a Science paper, so I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt for now. As you might expect, following word usage through 5.2 million books over 200 years comes up with some pretty interesting stuff in tracking changing vocabularies related to food.
Vocabularies related to food are constantly changing – as in the use of ‘umami’, the so-called ‘fifth taste’, which doesn’t feature in English prior to the early 1980s
In contrast, ‘sour’ and ‘sweet’ have stayed pretty steady over the same period
Whether we do or don’t live in an age of anxiety, the results relating to anxiety are peculiar. In British English, anxiety has become more common:
Yet in English overall, the percentage of texts mentioning anxiety has only increased very slightly in the last 60 years and has now plateaued
In contrast, ‘fear’ is similar in both corpora – it declines slightly up to the mid-1980s and then stays much the same.