Google Books Ngram Viewer: (Crazy, Insane, Lunatic) (Romance, Comedy)

These two diagrams were created in Google Books Ngram Viewer. Both are comparing terms found in 19th century (1800 to 1900) literature and helps displays patterns in writing.

google books ngarm crazy insane lunatic

The first terms I decided to look up were “insane”, “crazy,” and “lunatic.” Today, these terms are thrown around pretty loosely but they have obvious derogatory connotations. I have heard a lot about the mistreatment of people thought to have mental illnesses and disorders in our society today. Mistreatment was especially bad before most of these cases were understood, so I was curious to look into the use of these words in the 19th century. While these terms were not used so much in the beginning, they increased significantly by the second half of the 19th century. “Insane” increased more around 1825 – 1830 which was only a few decades after the popularization of insane asylums and relocation.

Also, at the end of the 19th century (namely around 1880) the use of phrenology and measuring cranial capacity was still used as a method to determine attributes such as criminality and mental ability/illness. After a few hours of looking at articles from the 19th century, it would seem that the interest in mental illness turned to fascination by the 1880’s. This makes sense also because it was in 1880 that a lot of light was shown on the poor conditions of asylums and the terrible treatment of it’s occupants. People where more interested in mental illnesses and disorders by the end of the century. It makes sense, then, that the terms “insane” and “lunatic” increased the most in literature during these years.

google books ngarm romance comedy png

I also compared “romance” and “comedy.” I was not sure what to expect, but there was certainly a change in popularity and use. It would seem that comedy peaked around 1824 and romance had surpassed it by 1830. In England, the late 18th century until almost half way through the 19th century was marked by romanticism. Authors such as Walter Scott and Jane Austen were extremely popular. The romantic movement reached beyond England (France) into the U.S. By the early 19th century, romantic novels and literature swept across the country. This may have been because of religious restriction and the desire to personify the individual (and their emotions) instead of god or religion. Romanticism of frontier life and Native Americans were also very popular.


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