There is a theory in psychology proposed by Abraham Maslow that suggests people don’t focus on subjects unnecessary for survival unless other conditions necessary for survival and sanity are met. According to Maslow, people don’t focus on literature when other they are worried about there own survival. To survive, we need food, water, and shelter, in our society, we also need financial security.
To test this theory, we can follow trends in the major literary genres throughout the last 150 years. Drama, comedy, tragedy, and satire correlate very well with each other, romance varies slightly but generally follows the same overall trend. During the 1860’s, during the Civil War, none of the genres gain any significant prominence, due to the fact that people were concerned with the safety of their friends and family. Starting in 1870, all genres start gaining more prevalance, until about the middle 1910’s, the start of World War I. During WWI, the relative prevalence of all genre’s drops sharply, potentially due to the fact that people are generally more concerned with their own personal safety. During the roaring twenties, the prevalence of all genre’s increases sharply. During this time, the economy was growing rapidly, due to the increased financial security, people where allowed to focus more on literature. The prevalence of each genre begins to drop when the stock market crashes in the late 1920’s, and continues to drop throughout the great depression and World War II. Growth is stagnated during the cold war in the 50’s, and begins to fall sharply as the Vietnam War escalates in mid 60’s to mid 70’s.
The prevalence of all genres continues to slowly decline after the 80’s, except for Romance. I think this decline is due to the decline of printed media as a whole due to the rise of technology and digital media.
As the english language has changed and warped to meet the needs of its speakers, the meaning and emphasis of certain words changes. When people begin to use a new set of words, they become more commonplace and loose power as a result. The Ngram above shows the relationship between a few words that would be considered formal to many people and some words that represent the informal version of each. During the 20th century the relative abundance of formal words switched places with that of the informal counterparts and since, informal words have been used much more regularly. That being said, our society is pushing towards less formal methods of communication because of the abundance of casual words that are found in literature.
In order to look at why this switch occurred, it is a good idea to think about the type of people that were contributing to the literature of the day. Before the 20th century, books and records were written by educated individuals or professionals more commonly than the average person. As a result, more formal works were produced and terms that our society would consider slang had not become widely popular. During the 20s when the country reached its financial high before the great depression, slang terms and those that would be considered more informal emerged as more prominent contributors to literature. As the 20th century progressed, the frequency of each showed how culture was influencing the way people communicated on paper, offering a more thorough glimpse into how they spoke in person.
Modern day society greatly favors informal methods of communication over those that would be considered old, dated, or strict. Terms like “all right” are much more common than “acceptable”, and while this is not a definitive measure of the formality of society, it shows a push towards informal communication and ultimately a reduction in the use of formal terms and phrases.
The reason for this shift can likely be attributed to the internet and the interconnectivity it provides. Communication has reached levels that are unrivaled and as a result, we are leaning more towards slang in written communication. Whereas at one point written language was exclusively formal, new forms of writing that exhibit casual language are beginning to emerge.
Humans will always be interacting with each other in different ways. Man is a social animal and by nature, humans need relationships to be happy and content. I was curious to see how more intimate types of relationships have changed and become more or less prominent over time. For this reason, I decided to search the words “marriage”, “sex”, and “friendship” on Google Ngram to see if there have been any significant changes in the past two hundred years.
It was interesting to see that marriage has stayed relatively consistent, with the exception of a time period around the 1920s. The 20s marked a period of time of independence. It was a time for young people to let go and enjoy themselves. Young women were especially less interested in marriage because of this newfound freedom.
On the other hand, sex and friendship have seen dramatic changes in usage over time. You can see a large and gradual increase in “sex”, but an equivalent decrease in “friendship”. This change reflects how American culture has gone from relatively conservative to very liberal in this sense. Sex has become more and more casual, while less and less importance has been placed on friendship. In this age of social media and smart phones, people more than often converse through chatting and text messaging. This perhaps is weakening the average person’s ability to socially interact with people face-to-face. As a result, people have most likely become more introverted and are less capable of developing and sustaining friendships.
The controversy between Coke and Pepsi has become more prominently displayed since moving to Atlanta due to the Coke headquarters being so close. Upon arrival, I had to be a tourist and visit the factory when I first moved down and I found it really interesting how soda was so impacted by events throughout history. Using Google Ngram Viewer I made a graph comparing Pepsi, Coke and Dr. Pepper for another beverage comparison. Surprisingly, Dr. Pepper barely had any popularity even though it was first established in 1885 and was nationally produced and sold in 1904.
Coca-Cola shows a gradual rise from the early 1900’s and on, while Pepsi only takes off in the late 1930’s. Both beverages were created around the 1890’s, however Coke had a brilliant marketing scheme where salesmen would hand out coupons for a free coke. Pepsi’s gained popularity in 1936 with the introduction of a 12 oz. bottle. This was twice as much soda for the same price as a bottle of Coke, encouraging price-watching consumers to buy Pepsi over Coke.
On the graph, there is a huge drop on the graph for Coca-Cola in the mid-1960’s. This is because at this point in time in history, many women began to count their calories. This led to the creation of TaB which had only one calorie and was more appealing to calorie conscious consumers. From the 70’s and on there is a huge rise in popularity for both companies because the competition was growing fierce. From then on, the marketing battle began and both companies focused on who could claim more fame in the worldwide market.