Melancholy is virtually non-existent before 1570, but begins to rise and then falls until it drops off completely around 1625, about the time of the death of Dowland. It builds again to a great surge in 1650 (when, it says in Wikipedia, ‘the Age of Discovery ends’: reason enough), falls and then picks up, growing nicely and rising with the Romantics in 1800, and then declines gently before starting to increase again after 2000. Sting recorded a very terrible version of Dowland’s songs in 2006. Fuck is quite absent from books until about 1590 when it jolts up the chart for about eight years and then plummets, before returning in the 1630s, holding its own quite robustly until, of course, it disappears completely between 1820 and the mid to late 1950s when it surges once more (Look Back in Anger, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, the Beat Poets) and remains ever on the up after that. Not as much as shit, however, which overtook fuck in the 1950s and has remained in the ascendant. Cunt is something of a rarity, hardly visible apart from a small hump around 1700, but then it starts to perk up and continues to rise until the latest available date. I imagine it will have made something of a spurt in 2010.
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
"A small hump around 1700"
At the LRB, Jenny Diski on Google's searchable book database (I know at least one person who will be dismayed if she reads this piece - sorry, Alice!):