Just a statistic

This is interesting. (Thanks to M. for the link.) The gist of it is that some study shows an increase in words denoting fear in literature published since 1980.

I’m not sure I agree with Ms. Rosenberg that this suggests a growing emphasis on fear, to the detriment of other emotions, in popular literature (and hence popular thought). Isn’t it possible that the changing social contexts over the past century simply empowered authors to write more freely about topics they couldn’t write about before? Even mentioned in passing, if all we’re looking at is word counts, then this could skew the data, giving the sense that texts are about this or that when those topics are in reality merely mentioned.

I’m not a statistician, of course. I don’t know ’bout any of those there numbers ‘n things. But I’m always leery of statistics, particularly when they’re used to make sweeping social and cultural claims. Still, interesting talking point.

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