Looking for first and/or subsequent use of a phrase
September 11, 2009 4:33 AM   Subscribe

I am trying to find the first use, and/or the number of subsequent occurences of a phrase.

The non-profit "One World Everybody Eats" in Salt Lake City, Utah began operating as a "pay what you want" community kitchen in 2003. In 2007, it received its 501c3 non profit status. I am writing a book about the growing instances of "pay what you want" in every type of business, but especially in restaurants. On October 2nd, another "PWYW" restaurant (the sixth so far) will open in New Jersey based on the OWEE model. Also, there are also several other phrases which are related to the same idea of letting people pay what they think something is worth. They include "pay what you can" and "pay what you like."

I am looking for research, a service or a website that can help me identify the first use of any of those phrases, and/or the frequency of use after OWEE began using and being associated with them and its community kitchen concept. Google's Zeitgeist does something similar but it is not current or precise enough. I am trying to see if the increase of those phrases means the idea is spreading and becoming more acceptable in American society and world culture. And I am trying to see if OWEE is more likely to be associated with them than anything other entity. Finally, I want to know if, as the idea spreads, more people are trying the concept, possibly leading a shift in the manner of entrepreneurism, or the creation of an amended form.

OWEE and its model was rising in prominence before the economic crisis, and I'd expect there will be a big jump after 2007. And like any organization, it has had its problems. But my main interest is to learn whether this is a long term interest of its adopters based on changing values rather than a short term interest based on a changed economy.
posted by CollectiveMind to Writing & Language (2 answers total)
For this kind of thing, right now your best bet on the free side is to use Google News Archive Search - Advanced. On the paid side (but free at many libraries) you can try news archives like Newsbank, ProQuest, Nexus-Lexus. Try also the Newspaper Archive. Between them, if the term was published in relation to food service, you should be able to trace its development and find the earliest use. On this whole general idea, see also Chris Anderson's latest book, Free.

The Google News Archive Advanced search for "pay what you want" + restaurant comes up with this citation from 1980. Earlier, and omitting "restaurant", you can find citations for the New York Metropolitan Museum, which used to have a "pay what you want" admission policy.
posted by beagle at 4:49 AM on September 11, 2009

Clifton's Cafeteria in LA opened in 1931. Known as the Restaurant of the Golden Rule, it has had the two policies since then: "Pay What You Wish" and "Dine Free Unless Delighted"
posted by Pollomacho at 7:36 AM on September 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

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