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Search how often characters have said any word in movies and TV since 1930

Words come and go in popular culture. We say "need to" instead of "ought to" now, and cursing is more acceptable than it was in the 1950s. Ben Schmidt, an assistant professor of history at Northeastern University, has now made those trends searchable throughout the history of movies and TV with a new charting tool.

The database lets you search over 87,000 movies and TV shows for key words to see how they have fallen in and out of our popular culture. The database is composed of subtitles from shows and movies.

With this, we can see some basic trends such as the fact that people in the movies say "please" more than people on TV.

chart tv/movies 1

But we can also see the rise in technology, by looking at the graph for email. (Also note how "email" has fallen off recently.)

chart tv/movies 2

These charts also provide interesting insight into how we talk and don't talk about controversial issues.  The conversation around abortion, for example, peaked in television in 1990 and in movies in the late '90s.

chart tv/movies 4

The conversation around global warming, however, peaked in both movies and on television in 2008 and has been on a steady decline since then.

movie chart 5

The tool can also show us how cursing has changed in the past decades. "Fucking," it seems, is having a movie heyday.

movie chart 6

The tool can also search subtitles for directors, specific movies, or specific TV shows. For instance, here's how often Woody Allen uses certain words in his movies:

woody allen chart

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