The Science of Swearing. Read the F’ing Thing!

Don’t miss this. Over at Mind Hacks, blogger, psychiatrist, and writer Vaughan Bell, always on the lookout for items of scientific importance and wonder, has turned up an entertaining study of teenage swearing.

Teenagers love to swear. Says who? Says science you melon farmers. And what could be better than a top ten of teenage swearing compiled by science wielding psycholinguists? A US – UK show down. Let the cursing commence.

The book Trends in Teenage Talk: Corpus Compilation, Analysis and Findingswas written to summarise the findings of research on the word use of teenagers in London.

In Chapter 4, on slang and swearing, the authors compare the frequency of swear words in London teens to the same from an earlier study in East Coast American adolescents.

First the Londoners:

And now on to the East Coast Americans:

I love the contrast between US and UK usages. Some interesting variations. Londoners seem to prefer fucking to fuck, which suggests they’re using the F word as an adjective to modify other nouns (see list), while the Americans are simply blurting it out. I think either usage has its place. I also wonder if any of the UK fucking usages employ fucking as a gerund. (As in “Oh, what a fucking.” Or, to hijack the example from the Wikipedia entry (heh) on gerunds, “Fucking is an easy process for some.”) Haven’t heard it, but you never know.

Bell has his own reactions.

I would first like to express my disappointment that the word bollocks is being neglected by UK teenagers.

Unfortunately, a decline in social standards and a lack of respect for tradition is leading to a generation of fucking obsessed adolescents.

He’s just getting started. He’s got more. Don’t be an ass. Get your bloody arse over there and read the thing. It will make your day.

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