The finer things – ngram

Last week I observed that we seem less interested in talking about our enjoyment (also pleasures and delights). I wondered if that meant that we were less focused on enjoying life. Could it be an indication of a centuries-long trend toward ascetic living?

Or perhaps we are still interested in enjoying life, but how we talk about it has changed.

As always, here’s a link to the first blog article in this series if you haven’t heard of Google’s ngram viewer before.

As this chart shows, our interest in at least some of life’s pleasures has either held steady or increased over time.

fine dining fine wine dessert

Since the year 1800 our interest in talking about dessert has waxed and waned a bit, but is generally on a slow and steady rise. Since about 1970 in particular the increase has been fairly steady and a little more pronounced. We have also seen an increase in our talk about fine wine, especially since 1960. Fine dining really took off around 1980; it hardly existed as a concept prior to that.

So it is interesting that we have spoken less of pleasure and enjoyment, and the delights of life, but it would seem those concepts – or at least some of the traditional means by which we attain those concepts – certainly has not diminished with time.

Perhaps instead of discussing pleasure we simply enjoy pleasure? We certainly seem to be more interested in talking about the pleasure of sex these days; indeed we consider it a human right!