The rising usage of swear words in literature suggests that American society is becoming increasingly individualistic

August 3, 2017
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Comedian George Carlin's 1972 routine "the seven words you can never say on television" underlined his generation's rejection of the niceties and constraints of post-war American society. Seeing how the use of these swear words has changed over time captures the evolving American psyche, according to a new study by San Diego State University psychology professor Jean M. Twenge.

"The increases in in is part of a larger cultural trend toward individualism and ," said Twenge, also the author of the book, Generation Me.

For the study, Twenge, along with SDSU graduate student Hannah VanLandingham and University of Georgia psychologist W. Keith Campbell, analyzed the textual content from tens of thousands of books published between 1950 and 2008, and that have been catalogued by the Google Books database. Within this corpus, they searched for instances of Carlin's seven notorious words (which we won't print here but are noted in the study, or can be easily found online).

They found a steadily rising trend of those words appearing in the books, the team reports in the journal SAGE Open. In total, American authors used the seven risqué words 28 times more often in the mid-2000s than the early 1950s, the study notes.

"Forty-five years after George Carlin's routine, you can say those words on television—and in books," Twenge said.

The findings suggest that these words have become much less taboo over time, she said. One interpretation is that people today value free expression more than they did several decades ago. That dovetails with previous research which has found that American society is becoming increasingly individualistic. That characteristic is especially prominent in young people, Twenge said.

"Millennials have a 'come as you are' philosophy, and this study shows one of the ways they got it: The culture has shifted toward more free self-expression," she said.

Explore further: American baby names are trending more and more unique even as other parts of culture go traditional

More information: Jean M. Twenge et al, The Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television: Increases in the Use of Swear Words in American Books, 1950-2008, SAGE Open (2017). DOI: 10.1177/2158244017723689

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julianpenrod
1 / 5 (5) Aug 03, 2017
So, for these liars, "individualism" doesn't mean writing full sentences unlike other sentences, expressing deep ideas and sentiments that no one said before, but, instead, voicing the same vulgar words that everyone else is?
In the end, profanity, vulgarity are nothing more than aggressive animal vocalizations. They have the same qualities in every language. For the most part, only one syllable. Short vowels, not long vowels. "hissing" sounds like "s", "sh", "h"; "spitting" sounds like "p", "b", "t", "d", "ch", "j", "k", "f"; "growling" sounds like "g", "r". And no vulgarity actually says anything. It doesn't tell you what time it is or where the library is.
The rise in vulgarity mirrors the increase in the number of arrested development freaks and misfits. You can call narcissistic pandering to whims "free expression", but that doesn't necessarily make it more than selfish malignance.
wailuku1943
4 / 5 (4) Aug 03, 2017
I think you're confusing literature with (for example) non-fiction. Although the report here didn't specify what the "books" were, to this old guy who's been reading for about 65 years, it's clear that it was fiction. And so I pose the question to you, julianpenrod, if you're writing fictional dialog and the people you're representing talk in a certain way, isn't it your responsibility to render their speech as it would have been? I well remember, as a college student in the early 60s, reading descriptions and dialog that contained only mild curses or anatomical references, and shaking my head at how unrealistic the writing was, and then, because I knew the writers were operating under constraints, admiration for their creative solutions. It can't be a surprise that for centuries writers have grappled with these problems. Your notion about "animal sounds" and profanity is quite strange. Perhaps you only know English? Other languages have profanity too.
TheGhostofOtto1923
4.3 / 5 (6) Aug 03, 2017
The rise in vulgarity mirrors the increase in the number of arrested development freaks and misfits
Surprising how many curse phrases incorporate 'holy', 'jesus', 'christ', and 'god' coupled with basic bodily functions? Julian objects to the blasphemy, the disrespecting of deities that deserve no respect.

But experts agree, blasphemy is healthy and also liberating.
Da Schneib
5 / 5 (2) Aug 03, 2017
Bah. First, language drift. Second, changing mores. There's plenty more but that's enough to cover the assertions in the article and the paper.

This is the epitome of "viewing with alarm." Get over it. If you don't like it don't read it. If you read it anyway stop whining.
CubicAdjunct747
1 / 5 (3) Aug 03, 2017
I think we should fix the english language anyway, it needs help! Why are there so many duplicates? Like wind in the air and wind up a toy, or how the F does "GH" sound like "f". the originators of the english language were mentally challenged. What i want to know is why does Webster allow this kind of crap to persist! Someone else needs to be in charge and change this %#$&!
BendBob
5 / 5 (2) Aug 03, 2017
From my learning it was a result of many nations and travelers interacting and the locals making combined language phrases and mixing in 'foreign' words which became the way gh and ph sound like an "f".
Da Schneib
5 / 5 (1) Aug 03, 2017
@Cubic, you may find this amusing: http://www.angelf...hem.html
Hyperfuzzy
3 / 5 (2) Aug 03, 2017
I see it as a loss of morality. When we treat others well, the swearing diminishes.
Caliban
4.5 / 5 (2) Aug 03, 2017
Nah, as DA points out, it is mainly just drift- language use evolves together with culture(s) in a society.
Given that we are living in a society and time when economic and cultural pressure imposed by our corporate overlords all goes to the lowest common denominator, a certain loss of articulation has occurred.
That same pressure also drives both conformity and individualism --because people gotta identify themselves with tribes-- which gives rise to all sorts of neologisms and new usage. these are, of course, exploited by our corporate overlords to sell every type of consumer good, and are used to divide and conquer via religious, political, economic, social, racial, sex orientation, ethnic, etc. classification. Watch 10 minutes of news coverage, ffs.
At the same time, large portions of American english speakers have very poorly developed vocabularies, almost congenitally, and of course the only way to make oneself heard is by using vehement hyperbole.

Cont.
Caliban
not rated yet Aug 03, 2017
When I say that, I'm talking mainly about selling, but it also holds true --increasingly-- in every other facet of our lives as we lead them here and now.

It should not come as any surprise at all to this researcher that this type of speech is on the increase in contemporary literature, as it most accurately reflects the most common forms and expressions in contemporary language in America.

IOW, this clown failed to employ the most basic of methodological tools, and instead attempts the most tortuous justification(more properly, biased interpretation) of the facts as they lay.

This is far less a case of the perceived value of "freedom of expression" than the mass-marketing of reduced language ability, reflective of the impact of lowest-common-denominator consumer capitalism, upon contemporary usage.

A vicious circle, in fact.

This basic understanding of reality is ignored by Twenge, who seems more intent on bolstering the thesis of her book, "Generation Me".

cont.
Caliban
not rated yet Aug 03, 2017
It would be interesting to hear her thoughts on some related phenomena.

For instance; what opinions might she have regarding the use of words like "disembowel", "eviscerate", "annihilate", et al, as they are used in contemporary "journalism"?

While it's true that there are still organizations that respect grammar, syntax, correct usage and facts, the drift towards amateur, vernacular-style reporting seems to be eroding even those.

I suppose that an Ivory Tower existence may indeed make one oblivious to such distinctions, and --in this case, at least-- would seem to be a justifiable criticism of Ms Twenge's research.
Osiris1
1 / 5 (1) Aug 03, 2017
Our species has become lazy and lacks ambition. This reflects in lazy and increasingly ignorant language substituting profanity for words for which the speakers either have no clue or have forgotten. All is in the context, however once the context is not available, the meaning descends quickly to animal gibberish.
dogbert
1 / 5 (1) Aug 03, 2017
Hyperfuzzy,
I see it as a loss of morality. When we treat others well, the swearing diminishes.


I think you are correct that it is a morality issue, but at a deeper level, I believe it is due to a lack of respect for oneself and others. Of course, when you lose respect, you fail to feel the moral responsibility as acutely.
cantdrive85
2.5 / 5 (2) Aug 03, 2017
Hyperfuzzy,
I see it as a loss of morality. When we treat others well, the swearing diminishes.


I think you are correct that it is a morality issue, but at a deeper level, I believe it is due to a lack of respect for oneself and others. Of course, when you lose respect, you fail to feel the moral responsibility as acutely.

Well, that's a bunch of bullshit! I ain't no less moral than the next asshole. And 'sides that, there ain't no lack of self-spect here neither as I'm better than all y'all sons-a-bitches.
Hyperfuzzy
5 / 5 (1) Aug 04, 2017
Hyperfuzzy,
I see it as a loss of morality. When we treat others well, the swearing diminishes.


I think you are correct that it is a morality issue, but at a deeper level, I believe it is due to a lack of respect for oneself and others. Of course, when you lose respect, you fail to feel the moral responsibility as acutely.

Well, that's a bunch of bullshit! I ain't no less moral than the next asshole. And 'sides that, there ain't no lack of self-spect here neither as I'm better than all y'all sons-a-bitches.

Also, a lack of understanding of the necessity of human rights is causal. You may do a dichotomy of the mind body and spirit; however, please note that respect is a human right. Respect even the disrespectful, i.e. every human is deserving of respect. So we do not show human rights, which is a necessity for an intelligent group!
TheGhostofOtto1923
4 / 5 (4) Aug 04, 2017
every human is deserving of respect. So we do not show human rights, which is a necessity for an intelligent group!
Respect can be lost in which case it must be earned again.
Hyperfuzzy
2.3 / 5 (3) Aug 04, 2017
every human is deserving of respect. So we do not show human rights, which is a necessity for an intelligent group!
Respect can be lost in which case it must be earned again.

Respect is not earned, it's a human right, else you magnify disrespect.
TheGhostofOtto1923
5 / 5 (4) Aug 04, 2017
Respect is not earned, it's a human right, else you magnify disrespect
What the hell does that mean? Many people dont deserve respect because of their actions. They have lost the 'right' and must earn it back.

Its like trust. Trust isnt a right.
Hyperfuzzy
1 / 5 (2) Aug 04, 2017
Respect is not earned, it's a human right, else you magnify disrespect
What the hell does that mean? Many people dont deserve respect because of their actions. They have lost the 'right' and must earn it back.

Its like trust. Trust isnt a right.

Then you are part of the disrespect, an amplifier of your own choosing, based upon what? Also your grammar is bad.
A human being, whether mentally challenged or never taught human rights don't "earn" disrespect, they need help!
TheGhostofOtto1923
5 / 5 (3) Aug 04, 2017
Psychopaths can't be fixed. They consider your respect a weakness and use it to take advantage of you.

"One of the basic assumptions of psychotherapy is that the patient needs and wants help for distressing or painful psychological and emotional problems. The psychopath does not think that they have any psychological or emotional problems, and they see no reason to change their behavior to conform to standards with which they do not agree. They are well-satisfied with themselves and their inner landscape. They see nothing wrong with they way they think or act, and they never look back with regret or forward with concern. They perceive themselves as superior beings in a hostile world in which others are competitors for power and resources. They feel it is the optimum thing to do to manipulate and deceive others in order to obtain what they want."
Cont>
TheGhostofOtto1923
5 / 5 (3) Aug 04, 2017
"Most therapy programs only provide them with new excuses for their behavior as well as new insights into the vulnerabilities of others. Through psychotherapy, they learn new and better ways of manipulating. What they do NOT do is make any effort to change their own views and attitudes."

-IOW they are born broke and there is no way to fix them.

"And make no mistake about it: you can NOT hurt their feelings because they don't have any! They will pretend to have feelings if it suits their purposes or gets them what they want. They will verbalize remorse, but their actions will contradict their words. They know that "remorse" is important, and "apologies" are useful, and they will give them freely, though generally in words that amount to blaming the victim for needing to be apologized to."

-There is no way to respect people like this. The only way psychopaths can regain respect once they are discovered is by manipulation and deception.
Dingbone
Aug 05, 2017
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
TheGhostofOtto1923
5 / 5 (3) Aug 05, 2017
Interestingly the religion memes or whole groups of people can be considered psychopathic
The actions of committed religionists are often indistinguishable from those of psychopaths. Religion is only an extreme form of tribalism.

"As regards humans, Darwin stated that "the confinement of sympathy to the same tribe" must have been the rule. This was for him one of the chief causes of the low morality of the savages. "Primeval man", he argued, "regarded actions as good or bad solely as they obviously affected the welfare of the tribe, not of the species". Among the living tribal peoples, he added, "the virtues are practised almost exclusively in relation to the men of the same tribe" and the corresponding vices "are not regarded as crimes" if practised on other tribes."
TheGhostofOtto1923
5 / 5 (3) Aug 05, 2017
They cannot also be fixed - only eradicated
Tribalists are usually healthy normal people. We are all tribalists. We have been selected over 1000s of gens for our ability to forego our personal interests in deference to those of the tribe.

But tribal affiliations can change. We can be convinced to leave one tribe and join another. And as I said we can even be convinced that there is only one tribe and we are all members of it, in which case there is no one left to fear and loathe, and everyone is your brother.

But how can this truly be when we have religions and political systems based on intertribal competition?

Psychopaths can be considered a tribe of one. But their condition is pathological. Their brains are defective in very specific ways. They are incapable of feeling emotion.

And so there is no way of convincing them to change. The tribal dynamic necessarily includes empathy for fellow members but empathy is something psychopaths can't feel.
TheGhostofOtto1923
5 / 5 (3) Aug 05, 2017
Nevertheless there may be psychopaths in your tribe. They are very skilled at faking emotion and empathy. They can exploit the tribal dynamic for selfish purposes, quickly rising to positions of power and leadership.

"The individuals who constitute this 4 percent drain our relationships, our bank accounts, our accomplishments, our self-esteem, our very peace on earth."

This is another reason that tribalism and religion must be ended.
Dingbone
Aug 05, 2017
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
Captain Stumpy
3 / 5 (2) Aug 05, 2017
@dingbat zeph
Even people like Captain Stumpy play role of tribalists here - the ideologically pure scientific community free of crackpots is their tribe in this case
imagine that: Godwin's law from a pseudoscience idiot

so lets talk about tribal behaviour: the scientific method is an ethical code required to establish reality
adherents are only those who prefer reality to idiocy

the simple fact that you can't personally accept the method demonstrates an ideology with an inability to conform to basic rules or authority of any kind as well as failure to accept reality

so more of the tribalistic behaviour really comes from you and your anti-science gang of idiots attempting to break the backs of the scientifically literate because you think your beliefs should be equivalent to scientific evidence

sound familiar? it's called religion
See: creationist and/or "creation science"

defense of self from idiocy isn't tribalistic, it's just normal life
Hyperfuzzy
1 / 5 (1) Aug 05, 2017
LOL, psychopaths were cured in early tribes by the witch doctor. It's based based upon what you believe. Modern evil is systemic, money!
Dingbone
Aug 06, 2017
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
Hyperfuzzy
5 / 5 (1) Aug 06, 2017
http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2017/07/antisocial-bees-share-genetic-profile-people-autism than their non-autistic siblings and the other healthy children.

Check your sources.
Old_C_Code
Aug 07, 2017
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Hyperfuzzy
Aug 07, 2017
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