Google’s Book Ngram viewer tracks the relative popularity of English words over the last century. Some that might interest you:
- Jesus: peak 1930s, trough 1940-60, ascendant.
- Islam: peak 1975-78, steady increase 1990-2008.
- Deficit: peak 1989-91, steady decrease since.
- Reagan: steady modest plateau for his presidency, decrease 1990-98, almost
logarthmicexponential gain since 2000.
- Racism: climb to peak in 1972, near-plateau through 1985, climb to peak in 1998, and fall off.
- Sexy: steady increase since 1960.
Conclusions (all subject to debate):
- We turn to Christianity in crisis, and as a continuing reaction to the 1960’s.
- Islam was a growing force in English thought through 9/11.
- We cared about the deficit very briefly, after Reagan piled it on, but not so much thereafter.
- Reagan’s cult of personality kicked off in earnest after 1998.
- We think we’re post-racial, even if we’re not.
- Sexual liberalization is reflected in writing.