Google has released a new tool to play with, its “Books ngram viewer,” which allows users to look at the frequency of word and phrase use over time, based on the data available in its Google Books program. By typing a word or phrase into the viewer, you can see the proportion (% of all words in Google Books) for the word or phrase each year. Since Google Books contains a large proportion of all works published in English each year, the results are likely a good indication of the word or phrase’s cultural impact in a year.
The tool allows you to restrict the Google Books database by a handful of different “corpus” (mostly different languages, but one corpus is “English Fiction” – presumably fiction in English). So, naturally, I selected the “English Fiction” corpus for the years 1820 to 2010 and typed in the word “Mormon” and immediately discovered a mystery: