If you are fascinated with word usage, I suggest you try a powerful new tool, Google NGram Viewer. According to the website:
What’s all this do?
When you enter phrases into the Google Books Ngram Viewer, it displays a graph showing how those phrases have occurred in a corpus of books (e.g., “British English”, “English Fiction”, “French”) over the selected years. Let’s look at a sample graph:
You may have noticed the term “schadenfreude” appearing more and more, defined as the pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others. Its usage is, I believe, a telling by product of the explosion of popularity of “reality” shows that often derive “entertainment” from the trials and tribulations of their subjects. In fact, this term just appeared in a recent ScienceBlogs posting.
Why do you think its usage has become so popular?
Back to the Google NGram Viewer. The data for usage of schadenfreude in thousands of books published from 1800 to 2008 shows a veritable explosion:
Why not try a favorite term and see what the usage trends are? Google’s database goes back to 1500!