5 February, 2004: Throwing toilet rolls in our own backyard

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I'm not sure why I bothered to do this, but maybe it will amuse others of a certain disposition. Jacquelyn Arnold linked to this set of poll results in which respondents were asked to rate `swear words' on a scale from `very severe' through `fairly severe' and `quite mild' to `not swearing'. (I'd have thought a better design would be to ask people to order `swear words' by severity, or perhaps compare them pairwise, but maybe that doesn't fit NOP's methodology.)

Let it never be said that I could let a rather silly set of data go by without turning it into an equally silly graph. Here I've amalgamated the middle two categories into a single `sort-of offensive' one to give a chart with two degrees of freedom:


(As an aside, one correspondent pondered whether he was more worried that I'd plotted the above diagram, or that the data had been collected in the first place....)

I've marked in red the words which fall into the FCC's list of seven dirty words; I don't think these translate very well to the British context, as you can see from the fact that they're scattered all over the plot. You can also get the chart as a PDF file if for some reason you want to print it out and hang it on your wall or something.

One thing troubles me about this survey. Do you suppose that (for instance) the 24% of people who apparently think that the term `Paki' is `not swearing' don't think that it's offensive at all? Or are they just using a narrow definition of `swear word'?

Copyright (c) 2004 Chris Lightfoot; available under a Creative Commons License.