Dear sugar fairy,
I don't mean to be in any way rude, but I think you're looking on history with a very narrow view. Languages, especially are English, are in no way set in stone and until recently had little concept of a formal list of accepted words. Language evolves at a fairly slow pace, so in your lifetime you will have noticed very little change, but there are tens of thousands of words
in English that have been borrowed from other languages.
Knowing more than one language was more common in the past and because of fluid borders there were thousands of different varieties of each. If you have ever learned a foreign language you know that some foreign words express a meaning unexpressable in another, or are of enough variation to warrant their use instead of the native counterpart. These words are borrowed and eventually become integrated into English. Some of it is to show off, no doubt, but often it's just more practical to use a word that has a more precise meaning. The list of borrowed French words
alone (which in turn come mainly from Latin) will probably surprise you. And many of these are fairly recent acquisitions.
This phenomenon is still chugging along today, especially in the opposite direction. If you've been to a non-English-speaking country lately, you know that they are incorporating dozens of English words relating to computers and culture. And you're using words that have been incorporated into English as recently as the 1800s (that do have English equivalents) like the German blitz
, French lingerie
, and the list could go on and on.
I think it was no more a fad in any other time than it is now. Back then they encountered a lot of French and German. Today we're running into Arabic and other languages more. We could say "islamic holy war" instead of "jihad", but we don't. We could also say "islamic church" instead of "mosque", but it's easier to just borrow the word.
So in answer to your question, it's always been popular. Besides, it's so much more fun to say "faux pas" than "social blunder".