Home News ‘Bloody not!’ Britain’s most popular swear word laid bare by linguist –...

‘Bloody not!’ Britain’s most popular swear word laid bare by linguist – ‘Big rise in use’


The linguistics study performed by Dr Robbie Love, an English language lecturer of Aston University, set out to examine a number of elements attached to cursing in the UK, including which words are used and how often. According to the findings, the ‘F’ and ‘S’ words have become Britain’s most popular – overtaking “bloody” as the nation’s favourites.

The data also found in the last 20 years there has been a 27 percent drop in swearing down from 1,822 to 1,320 swear words per million.

Dr Love told the Guardian: “Overall the data suggests that while swearing occurrence in casual British English speech is still within an expected range, it is lower than it was in the 1990s.

“It’s hard to say exactly why this appears to be the case – it may be due to shifts in what we consider to count as swearing, or that speakers perform the functions of swearing using other words that might not be considered to be taboo.

“What is most interesting to me are the changes in the popularity of individual swearwords and also the social distribution of swearing.

“‘Bloody’ has fallen in usage significantly – this finding is supported in the age distribution which shows it is relatively more common among older adults.

“This has allowed two words – ‘f***’ and ‘s***’ – to overtake.”

Back in June, the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC), which gives age ratings to films, also conducted some research into swearing habits.

The BBFC data also found a significant “generational divide”, with people aged 18 to 34 most likely to swear and be “desensitised” to its impact.

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“While this alone is not evidence to suggest the gap will continue to close, it is clearly a possibility, and may be a byproduct of societal changes relating to women’s rights and freedom of expression – traditionally, swearing has been used to ‘police’ the language of women and has been less tolerated in women, but this may not be the case so much now.”

Dr Love said swearing is still a major component of everyday conversation and believes the findings of the study will have implications for how we think about the role of swearing in society.

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