Modular Was All the Rage in 1933 (Apparently)

So it’s nearly midnight and I’m not tired.  Hence, why I’m sitting here fooling around on Google’s Ngram search tool, which allows for word or phrase searches in the texts of English language publications ranging between 1800 and 2000.

I was initially prompted by Derek Sayer’s comment in his new(ish) book Prague, Capital of the Twentieth Century: A Surrealist History that the phrase “ethnic cleansing” did not enter common usage until news reporting of the early 1990s (born out by an Ngram search).

Then, out of boredom, I searched “modular.”  My impulse was to think usage of it might spike after the spectacle around the Crystal Palace at the 1851 Great Exhibition of London, since it was designed around modular units of cast iron and glass.  Or perhaps usage would spike upward after the advent of office cubicles in the late 1960s.

But no…the initial spike of usage of modular is between 1932 and 1933, as shown below.

 

I confess I’m scratching my head here. Any ideas why this spike (nearly triple-fold) of usage of “modular” would have occurred between those two years? Leave your thoughts below!

I confess I’m scratching my head here. Any ideas why this spike (nearly triple-fold) of usage of “modular” would have occurred between those two years? Leave your thoughts below!

Discovery: Technology From Krypton!

I happened across this product while shopping at Target today.

Alleged “Krypton technology” found at Target, circa 2013

Somebody get Jimmy Olsen on the horn and have him tell Superman that, clearly, some denizens of the Bottle City of Kandor have been kidnapped and are being forced to invent products for mass consumption by Earthlings!

Autobiographical Library Shelf

Section of library shelf, The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, 2013

 

I was diving into some object files in the library at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth today as part of my research for a Sunday gallery talk I am giving there this June, and as I was packing up to leave, I spied a book titled The Comics on the shelf adjacent from me.  As I am teaching a class on comics history at the moment, I’m always on the lookout for older sources, so I mosied over to see which book it was.  As I perused the shelf, I was surprised to not only find a printing of Mark James Estren’s A History of Underground Comics, but also, just beyond that, several books on Surrealism, beginning with Anna Balakian’s Surrealism: Road to the Absolute.

As longtime readers of this blog surely know (all two of you, one of which being myself), my primary area of research is Surrealism.  So, considering the particularities of the Modern library’s collection and the Dewey decimal system here, my two specific scholarly areas were directly by each other on the shelf!

I wanted to hug the shelf, so I instead took this picture.