This is a neat statistics tool from google, showing how various words or phrases show up in printed text over a period of time. (Google has been scanning books for some time now, and they have basically created a database of a significant portion of every book ever printed, going back hundreds (thousands?) of years.)
Here are some examples Kevin picked:
Spam: See the full graph here.
Spam is a funny one of course. There is a slight blip around WWII, where the word obviously referred to the brand of canned meat. Then usage takes off after about 1994, which of course is when the “world wide web” burst into popular culture. (“www” is in quotes, because even though we use it every day in its short form, it still strikes me as oddly archaic already:)
Another example: Airplane, Aerodrome, Aeroplane. Full graph here.
Its interesting to me that the word “aerodrome” still shows up in printed text at all.
And finally: Liberty. Full graph here.
Keep in mind when looking at this trend that the sample size gets larger over time. Also, Kevin made it onto marginal revolution with this graph. How cool is that?