I took a slightly different approach to this assignment, because my central interest was in how Ngram could shed light on the phrase “Chivalry is dead.” I went about exploring this in several different ways. First, I just searched the word by itself to get a general idea of the history of how it was used. In the default timespan of 1800-2000, the data completely supported the idea that chivalry is dead, but when I decided to expand the time span to 2008, I was surprised to find that chivalry is on the rise once again.
I thought perhaps this recent rise was due to an increase in discourse about the fact that chivalry is dead, so I decided to search that phrase, and found out that it, in fact, declined around the time that the word “chivalry” began to be used more:
So, with this information, I added in some other words that I associated with chivalry to see if there was a correlation between them, and there was.
It is difficult to see the pattern of chivalry since it is not used very much in comparison the respect and dignity, but in general the trend of the three words is the same, which I found very interesting. To push this even further, I decided to compare chivalry to its opposite, disrespect, and see the relation between the two.
It appears that sometime in the 1990s and early 2000s chivalry was at an all time low, and disrespect had for the first time surpassed it. Yet, in what is good news to an optimist and romantic like myself, chivalry recently regained its dominance, suggesting that it might be becoming important once again.
I then looked up the books that had these words in them. The top result for chivalry in the early 1800s was titled “Tales of Superstition and Chivalry,” and it is unclear whether or not it is suggesting that the two are the same. However, it appeared to be discussing chivalry in the present moment, whereas recent texts were all historical fiction or non fiction accounts of the days when chivalry was more valued. As for disrespect, the earlier texts had much to do with reverence and religious matters, whereas the more recent ones had to do with racial issues and bullying, which displays how society’s values have shifted over time.
I think Ngram definitely illuminates the trends of words that would take lots of time to gather data upon otherwise. I found it interesting to see the correlation between these different words, and I never would have guessed that words such as “respect,” “dignity,” and “chivalry” would be taking a turn for the better, but Ngram has fueled my sense of hope.