Uncovering the bizarre and dubious connections between words as written in 5 million books over the centuries.
Powered by Google's Ngram tool, and some curious thinking.


Compassion, Empathy, Humanism

It is interesting to note how use of the word "compassion" in writing dipped during each of the World Wars, but has been steadily and (encouragingly) on the rise ever since.

"Humanism" rose in the early part of the last century, but interest seems to have flattened, or even begun to decline.

"Empathy" was rarely used in writings compared to the other terms, only taking off in the 1950's and growing since.  I wonder if the 1952 first publication of The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) had the effect of sparking interest and awareness of others' mental status?

Perhaps the world is becoming a more compassionate place, despite the fact that it still feels like a jungle.


Nausea, Vomiting, Diarrhea

Why is there a precipitous drop in vomiting and diarrhea writings around the early 1900's?  Maybe the world was too consumed by recovering from one world war and preparing for another to write about its bowels.

Interestingly, diarrhea as a subject was rarely mentioned until the turn of the century.  In the late 60's and early 70's the subject, like so many taboos, exploded from out of the cramped shadows.

It is hard to have vomiting without nausea, like thunder without lightning, but for some reason nausea is under-appreciated.  Of course vomiting is more drastic and dramatic, and makes for better literature, often cueing the conventional theatrical revelations of pregnancy or displays of severe emotional distress.


Pets vs. Houseplants

Not surprising that "houseplants" fail to inspire a sudden surge in interest, but they have been quietly existing in the background of our consciousness, much as they exist in the periphery of our homes.

The concept of "pets," however, has boomed since the early 1800's.  I would guess the unprecedented economic growth spurred by the Industrial Revolution made the keeping of domesticated animals for pleasure a growing phenomenon.  Whereas the average family struggled to keep food on the table for most of human history, modern life produces entire grocery store aisles devoted to pet food.

Along with "pets" capturing our imagination for the past 200 years, the United States euthanizes some 3-4 million animals abandoned to shelters or culled by animal control - an unfortunate byproduct of our collective love of dogs, cats, birds, and gila monsters.



Interesting... I wouldn't have thought the subject was so accessible in the 1880's.


War, Peace, Happiness since 1776

The Declaration of Independence marked a bold new direction for Americans, and for the world in general.  In the years since 1776, how have the ideas of war, peace, and happiness competed for our collective attention?

It would seem that the two World Wars have been immortalized as humanity's most prolific nightmares of the past 200 years - shadowed by small, simultaneous bumps in writings about peace.  The idea of happiness has been in a steady decline in our imaginations, surprisingly not varying with our belligerence or pacifism.

Could war and peace be so integral to our experience of life that they have little effect on our notions happiness?

Has "progress" lead to unhappiness?