Don’t you hate the creepy expression reaching out, where asking or contacting will do just fine?

Thank you for reaching out to me. Let’s reach out to the other side.

It has all sorts of subtle or sly or just annoying meanings, depending on context. The key thing about it is that it has a whiny, needy if not desperate sub-text.  Awful.

Anyway, here is a splendid Google tool for monitoring the evolution in the use of words and phrases as occurring in the vast libraries of Google Books. It turns out that reaching out has accelerated in use since the 1960s – no surprise there, with its clingy hippy let’s-relate-man tone.

I checked out another infuriating word, underway. Undergo, underscore, underwear and underline all sound natural as they are made from other verbs/nouns or verb/noun combinations. Underway is an odious mutant quasi-adverb (this process is now underway) that started insinuating itself into FCO work in the 1990s and spread like poison ivy. Here’s its Ngram profile. Interestingly it appears to have peaked and is now declining, no doubt in good part because of my unrelenting campaign against it.

I also hated a rash of the ugly adjective neuralgic that appeared for a few years in the FCO (this is a neuralgic problem) then mysteriously died away. Oddly enough that word soared to glory over a century ago but latterly has plummeted from favour. Good.

The new patronising feminist micro-aggression buzzword inappropriate (your clothes are inappropriate) is said by Google to be declining, but the data measure only until 2008. I bet it’s back in business. Meanwhile Marxist junk-word proletariat has slumped. Good.

The impact on language of the Gay Rights movement is obvious.

And in case you were wondering about the impact of the Internet on the language of sensibilities and pornography (as of course you were), Google has some suggestive numbers. See also this one: what a curve!

Do words measure the rise and fall of racist ideas and society’s reactions thereto?

Anyway, have hours of fun exploring your favourite annoying words and comparing how they drift in and out of fashion. Timescales adjustable for added amusement, but the long-haul one in these graphs is the best for our amateur purposes.