Some will say that it's good news, while lovers of profanity will call it a "bloody shame." Researchers from Aston University have found that the use of swear words in Britain have drastically declined since the 1990s. But results vary across demographic groups.
While we all swear from time to time, Britons have turned profanity into an art form. But Blimey O'Reilly, this might be changing. A new study by Dr Robbie Love at Aston University found that the use of expletives in Britain has declined by more than a quarter between 1994 and 2014.
He discovered that there was a 27% drop in swearing over the 20-year period, down from 1,822 to 1,320 swear words per million. In the study, researchers compared the use of 16 expletives in the 1990s and the 2010s, including "bloody," "sh*t" and "bollock."
They also noticed that trends in the type of swear words used have changed over the last few decades. "Bloody" saw an 80% fall in popularity in the 20 years leading up to 2014, while "f**k" has taken precedent in the 2010s. "Sh*t" almost doubled in usage between 1994 and 2014, reaching 326 words per million in the early 2010s.
The study, published in Text & Talk: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Language, Discourse & Communication Studies , revealed that risqué language is more popular among some demographic groups. Men use profanities differently than women- the difference between the genders have notably decreased from 2.33 times more frequent in men in 1994 to 1.68 times in 2014.
What's more, researchers observed that how much people swear changes as they age. While the use of profanities is more common among Brits in their 20s, it tends to diminish over time. The decline was however less steep in the 2010s, suggesting that people continue saying swear words later in life more than they did in the 1990s.
Another study by the British Board of Film Classification previously showed a clear generational divide when it comes to swearing. Nearly half (46%) of Gen Z respondents frequently use risqué language daily, compared to only one in ten (12%) of 55-64 year olds.
"Swearing plays a part in our conversational repertoire, performs useful functions in everyday life and is an everyday part of conversation for many people," noted Dr Robblie Love. "[It] performs many social functions including conveying abuse and humor, expressing emotion, creating social bonds, and constructing identity."