Oooo, if you haven't messed with Google Ngram, you shooooould! Instant pretty graphs of the occurrence of any words and phrases in tons of books over time? YES PLEASE!
Here, for example, you can see that the phrase "in the beginning" was used a lot in 1800 and has been in steady decline ever since, while "in the end" has been on the rise during the same time-period; and the phrase "in the middle" has remained steady and qualitatively in-between the other two.
Have you ever seen anything so squee-worthy?? I'm not sure I have. I may need to sit down a minute, actually. Whoo…
(YES, okay, I heard about the Ngram corpus lookup feature of Google Books and immediately headed over and devised a goofy philosophically-meta search for it. Because that is me, and data that speaks to me gets me hot.)