Curse Words as Dialect Maps.

Check out the amazing maps at this HuffPo story by Lorenzo Ligato, reporting on research by Jack Grieve, a professor of forensic linguistics at Aston University in Birmingham, who published the maps on Twitter last week. The one for “fuck” is a thing of beauty: you could replace the hackneyed phrase “flyover country” by “where they don’t say ‘fuck.'” (Via Mark Liberman at the Log.)


  1. Oh my Gosh 🙂
    Interestingly – does it look like “motherf*cker” is an Old Hispano Country thing, possibly a replacement for hijodeputa? Of course his methodology precludes him from mapping words which may or may not be swearwords depending on context.

  2. Swearing changes a lot over time. My father, a New Yorker, would swear when angry or even irritated, but he would never say “fuck” – not out of prudishness, it just wasn’t part of his swear vocabulary. “Son of a bitch” and “Jesus Christ” were his main expostulations, and “damn” and “goddamn” and “shitty” and “piece-of-shit” were the usual adjectives.

    The fuck map may be a snapshot of lag rather than long-term regional variation due to cultural differences.

  3. From the article:

    And who knew the “c-word” was so popular in New England?

    Who didn’t know? If I ever hear it from an American (which is rare), 9 times out of 10 they’re from New England.

    Exhibit A
    Exhibit B

  4. It’s too bad the colors saturate at z=2.3. We don’t get to see how outlying the outliers are.

  5. @Bloix: The same for my working-class Massachusetts grandfather. But in my age group, “fuck” is so ubiquitous that I suspect it may have even fallen below “goddamn” in potency.

    And apparently it’s in keeping with my region that I find “darn” a bit silly. The few times that I’ve heard someone use it in earnest, it’s struck me as very… Ned Flanders-esque.

  6. you could replace the hackneyed phrase “flyover country” by “where they don’t say ‘fuck.’”

    Which reminds me that the Bosnian for “flyover country” is “vukojebina” – “where the wolves go to fuck”. In other words somewhere so remote that it is regarded as out of the way and private even by the standards of animals which customarily live in out of the way places.

  7. “where they don’t say ‘fuck.’”

    Where they don’t give a fuck, surely? They may even have run out of fucks to give.

  8. Perhaps we can sell them our fucks.

  9. I would never have guessed California is so pure.

    I love my adopted state.

  10. “where the wolves go to fuck” — I heard “where the foxes tell each other goodnight”, from a German speaker. Maybe it’s a cleaner version, or just a variation.

  11. If we can find enough fucks by us, we could sell them.

  12. David Marjanović says

    I heard “where the foxes tell each other goodnight”, from a German speaker.

    “Where fox and hare tell each other goodnight” – so remote that basic biology doesn’t apply anymore.

    I only know this expression, like so many others, from reading. The closest to native I have would be “at the ass[-end] of the world”.

  13. I heard it from my grandmother. I got the sense of “this is the ned of the world, where the animals bid each other farewell and go no further”.

  14. That is, “the end”.

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