Like library_keeper, I’ve been playing with Google’s new ngram tool. This is supposed to show the historical frequency of word usage, based on Google Books. It’s briefly fun and utterly unreliable — in other words, it should be perfect for the internet.
But, after tinkering, I can’t really find much that’s both unexpected and even mildly believable. Waves of subcultures are marginally interesting, although you should porbably discount the goth revivals of 1860 and 1880. [the long and mutating history of ‘punk’, on the other hand, is genuine]. Or you could have a graph of years (1920,1930, etc), which seems to show more recent years being forgotten more quickly. And you can play off science against religion, duty against freedom, or all the isms against one another.
But basically, I’m stumped. There must be something interesting in there, but I can’t find it. Can anybody else do better?