"The '20s were the highest peak of joy-related words that we see," he says. "They really were roaring." But then came 1941, which, of course, marked the beginning of America's entry into World War II. It doesn't take a historian to see that peaks and valleys like these roughly mirror the major economic and social events of the century. "In 1941, sadness is at its peak," Bentley says.
We performed checks to confirm that the overall decrease in mood word frequency in the data is not merely a reflection of, for example, greater numbers of technically-oriented or scientific books through time. Although the Ngram database does not give an explicit breakdown of book subject categories , we analyzed the same mood word lists on Google's 1-grams English Fiction data set, which contains only works of fiction and literary criticism. In support of a real decrease in literary emotion, we found a similar decrease in the overall use of mood words (see Figure S1).
As an aside, the most commonly used words in English also happen to be, as a result of being commonly used, the most resistant to change. This is clearly shown by the fact that the most commonly used English verbs tend to be irregular, reflecting older patterns.
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