You may remember Jack Grieve’s swear maps of the USA. Now he has a nifty new web app called Word Mapper that lets anyone with an internet connection make use of the raw data behind those maps.
Being a mature grown-up, I put on my @stronglang hat and went searching for swears and euphemisms. What emerged were some intriguing – and visually very appealing – patterns of rude word use in contemporary discourse:
About 60 maps follow, so fair warning: It’s an image-heavy post.
A friend who attended one of the Grateful Dead’s Fare Thee Well concerts in late June came back with a fashion report. No, it wasn’t about tie-dyed peasant skirts or blinged-out Birkenstocks. It was about this T-shirt:
“Polite as fuck” tee from Buy Me Brunch.
Or maybe this one. (My friend didn’t pause in her revels to gather photographic evidence.)
Cursive does seem well suited to the message. T-shirt from Amazon.
The sassy oxymoron—civility meets vulgarity—is what tickled my friend (and me). I hadn’t seen anything like it — but then again, I hadn’t yet made an effort. As it happens, the “X as fuck” construction is highly commercial.
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. Here’s fuck: