THE RISE AND DECLINE OF “SWELL”. Megan Garber’s article called my attention to a wonderful resource, the Corpus of Historical American English, which can be found here. The Corpus is a data base of 400 million words. You can use it to find the frequency of word usage in each of the 20 decades in the Corpus (1810s-2000s). As an example, I posted here about how I once said to a friend who was going on vacation: “Have a swell time” and was met with gales of laughter. I recognized that my use of “swell” came from my father and that his use of “swell” came from his youth. Using the Corpus for “swell” leads to a chart which shows that “swell” was used 1.08 times per 1 million words in 1870. Its use per million words rose to 5.42 from 1910 (when my father was 7) to 1920 (when my father was 17); rose to a peak of 19.51 in the 1930’s; and fell to below 1.60 from 1980 to 2010.

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