Bollocks to it

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 Findings was 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 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.

Indeed, one of the great pleasures of this eminently British tradition is the low level of recognition among Americans, meaning bollocks can be used openly in the States without causing offence.

However, the small sample size of the American data means it may not be the most reliable guide to the true population ranking.

I note, for example, that there are only 27 bitches and 24 asses which may mean that the true bitch – ass prevalence is being obscured by random variation in the sample.
 

Link to Trends in Teenage Talk on Google Books.

26 Comments

  1. Posted March 22, 2011 at 1:28 am | Permalink

    There is not enough wank for my liking.

  2. Katiesci
    Posted March 22, 2011 at 1:35 am | Permalink

    Love it! My 15 yr old son just started swearing around me in the last year. His fav is also “fuck” from what I gather.

  3. Emmy
    Posted March 22, 2011 at 1:39 am | Permalink

    Sure, but what American says Bollocks except post-grad geeks who watched too many episodes of the Young Ones? ;)

  4. Sean
    Posted March 22, 2011 at 4:30 am | Permalink

    Oh nevermind the bollocks, man.

    Did you notice that there are no terms for genitalia on the American list? As a former adolescent, I can testify that I called several people “cocksuckers” in my youth.

    Interesting to compare this with George Carlin’s list of Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television: “Shit, piss, fuck, cunt, cocksucker, motherfucker, tits.”

  5. Gwyn
    Posted March 22, 2011 at 5:12 am | Permalink

    Too bad no Canadian data — judging from my teenage son (sample of one) it appears as though Canadian males may be a bit of US and UK.

    Fuck is definitely #1. With shit being #2 for sure. But bitch, bastard and crap are up there, yet ass is not so prevalent. God is somewhere halfway down the list.

    There is also rarely Hell but decent levels of Jesus Christ (perhaps a modernized Christian concept where there is the 3 in 1 God but no Hell?)

    Just waiting for the frontal lobe to fully mature. Yep. Lotta years still to go (expletive of your nationality and maturation level inserted here).

  6. Jack
    Posted March 22, 2011 at 9:27 am | Permalink

    Females say “God” a lot more than males. Other than that we’ve got ‘em beat. No doubt easily explained by the phrase “Oh my God!” and it’s use in describing the mild state of hysteria that teenage girls experience most often :P

  7. Posted March 22, 2011 at 9:28 am | Permalink

    Brill. Positively brill. Or as East Coast Americans would, say, fuckin’ bitchin’.

    I like the (jesus) (christ) formulation. I take that to mean/recognize that people, apparently more commonly in the US, sometimes use those two words as a framework to carry various mixes of the other words in the list, with preference for words referring to maternity and The Act. As in:

    J F’ing C (where F = the usual)

    or, in real pique,

    JMFPFC (where P = pig).

    I’ve heard people say that.

  8. Szwagier
    Posted March 22, 2011 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    Depressing lack of “the c word”. Pricknasties.

  9. Posted March 22, 2011 at 9:55 am | Permalink

    Quite surprised that wanker and twat didn’t make the cut. I use the former all the time.

    • Posted March 22, 2011 at 6:58 pm | Permalink

      Holy hell! I’m glad someone else mentioned this! I spent some time in London in my 20s and I was absolutely enamored with how frequently people, both men and women, threw around the word twat with reckless abandon, especially when referring to hitting someone as in “I twatted him/her”. Every time I hear a Brit say twat I smile.

  10. Posted March 22, 2011 at 10:06 am | Permalink

    Were the total sample sizes the same in each case? Because if so, the Londoners were swearing about 6 times as much as the Americans.

    Which is a fucking lot.

  11. John King
    Posted March 22, 2011 at 10:14 am | Permalink

    God? Hell? Isn’t there a difference between swearing and profanity?

    Anyway, more sweary science:

    http://www.jstor.org/stable/413849

  12. Brian Murphy
    Posted March 22, 2011 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

    I must take you to task on ass. I contend that this is not a swear word, unless accompanied by hole. As has been pointed out since time immemorial, an ass is a beast of burden: when calling someone an ass, one is pointing up the stubbornness or stupidity of the callee.
    As an American (born West Coast, live in East Coast)I have never heard the term ‘bollocks’ used by an American. I don’t even know what it means, other than if you use it, you’re a Brit.

  13. mat
    Posted March 22, 2011 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

    where are all the cunts?

  14. Posted March 22, 2011 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

    I don’t see any cunt.

    Waitaminute…

    • Mark
      Posted April 1, 2011 at 12:01 am | Permalink

      I’m guessing that this survey was for commonly used words, as opposed to most offensive, otherwise See You Next Tuesday would have been at the top.

  15. Posted March 23, 2011 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

    Hell’s teeth!

  16. JerseyDutch
    Posted March 23, 2011 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

    Murph got it with ass(hole). Asshole and Douchebag are the most common male terms of reference within 75mi of NYC. I think the asshole/bitch #’s are prolly not that far from the truth.

    Women don’t wanna mention their assholes, and men don’t wanna mention their bitches.

    Where’s Mutherfukker on the US list, and Cunt on the Brit list?

  17. Tom H
    Posted March 23, 2011 at 9:05 pm | Permalink

    For all you Americans, “bollocks” refers to testicles and is often combined with adjectives such as “sweaty” or “hairy”…..

  18. Phil Berry
    Posted March 25, 2011 at 7:25 am | Permalink

    Interesting that there is no relation to ‘twat’ in either list. Not even a sniff of one.

  19. Posted March 27, 2011 at 3:28 am | Permalink

    The equivalent of “bollocks” in the USA is “Jesus Christ”, who had plenty of them to stand up to the Roman Empire.

  20. Phil Dewey
    Posted March 27, 2011 at 4:08 am | Permalink

    Look, even Donald Trump endorses swearing in business (http://www.infomercial-hell.com/blog/2006/07/05/holy-bleep-swearing-in-infomercials/ ).

    Get over it. The world is a knock down, drag out place and being hyper-sensitive or politically correct will cost you $ in the end. Just mt 2 cents…

  21. Posted March 29, 2011 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

    Where the fuck is “bugger”? I remember reading a similar comparison of swearing in the UK and US back from like the 1970’s or 80’s.. and while Americans were all about the “Fuck off”–Brits were somewhat anally-compulsive about using “Bugger.”

    • SimplerDave
      Posted March 29, 2011 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

      ‘Bugger’ is the British word for the act of anal sex (‘to bugger him/her/it’) & has been used for years as a family-friendly substitute for ‘fuck’ (‘why don’t you bugger off?’ ‘they’ve buggered up the plans again’, etc.).

      The fact that no-one else understands the word is a bonus.

  22. kaptainkremen
    Posted March 29, 2011 at 8:41 pm | Permalink

    As a Brit that’s been living on the U.S. East Coast for a while, I do lament the lack of cunt. From what I remember, there was a surfeit of cunt in the UK when I was younger, and I think that more British women have embraced the use of cunt since I left.

  23. Posted March 30, 2011 at 7:50 am | Permalink

    I have to add my hat into the group of people demanding cunt and twat. Every time I’ve visited the UK, these have been common swear words, especially from London types.
    I have to agree that I find it hilarious when they’re made into adjectives: “cunting hell!” “Cock” is also a common alternative to balance the genders out, and its cousin “dildo.”

    The way I’ve heard bollocks used best is when someone is working on something difficult, and the adjective (sweaty, hairy, etc) is used as a build-up and “bollocks” is used as some kind of release (say, when working on a construction project).

    Coming from highly-religious areas of Canada, we have loads of Christian swear words, most popular being “Jesus CHRIST!” I find myself saying this swear, even as an atheist, simply because of the build-up/release quality of having two short words together.

    Though among my group of friends, we did actually use “bloody(hell)” and “bollocks” quite a lot, and I still do. Like the previous commenter mentioned, this probably has much to do with watching lots of Young Ones and Bottom when we were 12.

    I swear at work, a polite University office, all the time. I used to work in factory settings a lot, and I think it’s healthy to let your co-workers know your level of agitation. More as a warning for them, really…


3 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. […] mindhacks for this rather humorous look at swearing habits amongst American and British teenager http://mindhacks.com/2011/03/22/bollocks-to-it/ This entry was posted in Brain, Habits, Mind, Teenagers and tagged brain, mind, mindhacks, […]

  2. […] willing to get your shit together and say “fuck” in front on your aged grandmother, this is yet another war America can’t win. Full […]

  3. […] (Spoiler: they sure love to drop the “F-bomb.”) While there does seem to be some lighthearted concern about the diminishing use of “bollocks” in the UK, we’re just happy the “C […]

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