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This is going to sound odd, but a Terry Pratchett book lead me to look up the meaning of the word "fecund", and the result included a google ngrams graph of its use in written works.

graph with peak in 50s/60s

As you can see, there's a pretty angular increase in its usage in the 1950s and 1960s, I was intrigued by this and looked a little further, I found this more detailed graph.

graph with upper and lower case f separated

This was even odder information, because it looks like the increase I was interested in was due to an increase in the use of Fecund with an upper case F.

I've done some research, and I can't find evidence of someone named Fecund being written about in the mid 20th century. It also seems relatively unlikely to be used at the start of a sentence.

Was there someone well known called Fecund? Or perhaps a commonly quoted statement beginning a sentence with it? Why did this clear increase start and end so suddenly?

  • According to the Urban Dictionary #fecund this was slang back in the day for "an unwanted or surprise pregnancy." So I guess that would mean folks back in those days were ever vigilant for "number 3" due to a rather personal view of the term "economics" and "your family." One could explain a "number 3" using some such historical figure...but usually I think his name is Zeus or Apollo or something of that sort. – Doctor Zhivago Nov 28 '16 at 0:16
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    If you turn off smoothing in ngram you will see that there is just one year with 'F'... 1959 books.google.com/ngrams/… – AllInOne Nov 28 '16 at 13:42
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    Two things here: 1) You can click on the years listed at the bottom of your Ngrams to see exactly what all the hits were. 2) Its perfectly valid English to start a sentence with an adjective, which of course would have the first letter capitalized (eg: "Fecund women ..."). – T.E.D. Nov 28 '16 at 15:17
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The sudden increase shown for the capitalized form, "Fecund", is evidently a result of one particular book in the Ngrams database. The 1959 book Family Planning, Sterility and Population Growth uses "Fecund" repeatedly on over 90 pages. Apparently "Fecund" is used as a formal label for a specific class of people discussed in the text.

Also, you can more clearly see the book's influence on the statistics if you set the Ngram Viewer's "smoothing" value to 0, as here:

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    This is absolutely the perfect answer to this question! – AJFaraday Nov 29 '16 at 9:06
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The word itself is ancient. It's from Latin, via Middle French and Middle English.

Possible causes of the peak you're seeing include the post-WWII baby boom and the Green Revolution. Both of those would encourage use of the word, even at the start of sentences.

  • It would explain an increase in usage, although there doesn't seem to be one there in the lower case line on that graph. – AJFaraday Nov 28 '16 at 7:47
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    !! I think that "Start of sentence" is the key answer. – Mark C. Wallace Nov 28 '16 at 16:45

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