In the faggot zone

From Kyle Wohlmut, a pointer to the 7/28/15 piece “Mapping the United Swears of America” on Stan Carey’s Strong Language blog. I missed it the first time around, but now to give some credit to Stan and the research he reported on.

From this research, this map on usage of the vulgar slur faggot (explanation to follow):

  (#1)

From Carey:

Swearing varies a lot from place to place, even within the same country, in the same language. But how do we know who swears what, where, in the big picture? We turn to data – damn big data. With great computing power comes great cartography.

Jack Grieve, lecturer in forensic linguistics at Aston University in Birmingham, UK, has created a detailed set of maps of the US showing strong regional patterns of swearing preferences. The maps are based on an 8.9-billion-word corpus of geo-coded tweets collected by Diansheng Guo in 2013–14 and funded by Digging into Data.

The red–blue scale shows relative frequency. The frequency of a word in the tweets from a given county is divided by the total number of words from that county (which correlates strongly with population density). The result is then smoothed using spatial autocorrelation analysis, with Getis-Ord z-scores mapped to identify clusters. Alaska and Hawaii are not included.

Polysemy – a word’s multiple meanings – has not been controlled in the graphs, so the hell map includes straight religious uses as well as sweary ones, the pussy map includes cat references, and so on. But the graphs are nonetheless highly suggestive of differential swearword (and minced oath) clustering in different parts of the country.

Helldamn and bitch are especially popular in the south and southeast. Douche is relatively common in northern states. Bastard is beloved in Maine and New Hampshire, and those states – together with a band across southern Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas – are the areas of particular motherfucker favour. Crap is more popular inland, fuckalong the coasts. Fuckboy – a rising star – is also mainly a coastal thing, so far.

The analyses includes straightforward obscenities (like fuck and shit) and religious swearing (damn, hell), and also vulgar slurs (faggot, bitch), and euphemistic variants of some of these (gosh, darn).

On fucktoy. From Jesse Sheidlower, The F Word, 3rd ed.:

fuckboy [also fuck-boy, fuck boy] a catamite; (hence) a man who is victimized [1954 antecedent screw-boy, in a book set during WWII; 1971 cite referring to this book, but using fuckboy (for an flagrantly effeminate homosexual); 1974 cite “A goddamned faggot, a fuckboy”; and on from there.]

Grieve’s map:

  (#2) I grew up in, and now live in, prime fuckboy territory

2 Responses to “In the faggot zone”

  1. Robert Coren Says:

    I grew up in, and now live in, prime fuckboy territory

    Lucky you.

  2. [BLOG] Some Wednesday links | A Bit More Detail Says:

    […] Zwicky maps the usage of “faggot” as an obscenity in the United […]

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