How people swear on Twitter

Despite every mother’s exhortation to avoid posting things online you wouldn’t want “out there” for everyone to see, Twitter users swear — a lot. As in, even more than they do in real life.


That’s according to a new study full of unprintable words by researchers at Ohio’s Wright State University, which found that roughly one tweet of every 13 contains a curse word. That’s not all: The researchers also found that Twitter users swear most on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, that men swear more than women (though we everyone swears more around their own gender) and that f-bombs are far and away Twitter’s curse word of choice.

The researchers also looked at the frequencies of top curse words. The f-bomb is used more than twice as frequently as the next nearest four-letter word of choice. A chart of naughty language usage (complete with — as a warning — possibly offensive terms) and a fascinating interview with the researchers are both available at Co.Exist.

Per Co.Exist, this type of research has broad applications in mental health and online harassment policy, particularly in schools. Before that can happen, however, sentiment analysis software will need to improve. Researchers know that even foul language can be used in positive ways — they just need to parse the difference between “f— you” and “I f—ing love you.” To which I can only say, good f—ing luck.

Caitlin Dewey runs The Intersect blog, writing about digital and Internet culture. Before joining the Post, she was an associate online editor at Kiplinger’s Personal Finance.
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