It's really a remarkable moment for people who like data. The Internet, with all of its numbers and whatnot, allows us to examine things in bulk that once were nearly impossible to unearth. Like, for example, people who offer public comments on proposed federal regulations that include some of our more popular/extreme swear words.
The catchily named Regulations.gov offers an online database of precisely that. When a government agency proposes a new regulation, it goes through a period in which anyone can write in and advocate for/complain about the idea. (More the latter, usually.) Regulations.gov has a breadth of information related to the regulatory process, but the most colorful language comes once the public gets involved.
An important note. There were two words that we focused on in our analysis, one of which starts with an F and one of which starts with an S. Other words didn't come up as often, or were also commonly used nicknames for men named Richard, or what have you. So we focused on F and S, which have been replaced below with the words "FUDGE" and "SHOOT." Not because we're prudes, but because that is funnier.
An example: Here is a comment submitted by a gentleman in Arizona.
You Crazy FUDGErs Are Out Of Your Minds . What the FUDGE Is Wrong With You Cretinous SHOOT-Heads ? S T O P Your INSANE , G R E E D Y BEHAVIOR N O W .
The recipient of that well-considered argument? The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, which you may not have ever heard of.
Many of the comments including our Magic Words were directed at agencies that have a lower profile than you might expect. We looked at every instance of those two words in the comments themselves (not, for example, in the user's submitted name) since President Obama's second inauguration, and sorted them by how often each agency was targeted.
The first-place winner will not surprise you.
Many of the comments targeting the IRS were elegant in their simplicity: "FUDGE THOSE THUGS" or "YOU SUCK, FUDGE THE IRS" or "FUDGE OBAMA" (popular in many iterations) or "WHAT THE FUDGE IS THIS? FUDGE THIS SHOOT." Others, responding to the IRS's proposal to change its rules around nonprofits, were more complex: "time to quit your lies boys and tell the truth right to be a slave is right to work FUDGE the corporations let them eat SHOOT and FUDGing die along with the chamber of communist and other anti worker pos." The IRS. Gotta love 'em!
Second place might surprise you. The main attention-getter was a Fish and Wildlife proposal to remove the gray wolf from the endangered species list. "The fact that you encourage trophy hunting and needless killing makes you all complete jerks and [a word starting with A]," one person wrote. "FUDGE you and all you stand for." No one was more energetic about this issue than the person who submitted a version of the same comment more than 30 times. (The key line: "We farmers are SHOOT on once again.") This is why the tail end of the FWS bar above is light yellow -- consider it an asterisk in the Sweary Comment Hall of Fame.
That the EPA comes near the top almost certainly didn't surprise you. (In fact, it was tweeted examples of EPA comments that inspired us to look at this phenomenon.) This is the point at which we acknowledge a flaw in the methodology. For highly controversial proposals, advocacy organizations submit comments in bulk. Often, swear words are buried inside the large PDFs.
It's almost certainly the case that the number of comments buried in this way would vault the EPA into (at least) second place, but we decided to reward those who took it upon themselves to submit comments directly. Comments such as "This is the DUMBEST SHOOT you bureaucratic morons have come up with to date!" and "The EPA don't give a FUDGE about Americans" and one suggesting that the EPA is "an EVIL corporation" poised to fudge the planet. (Fact check: The EPA is not a corporation.)
The TSA got some complaints ("Having my nasties ogled by some random government employee creeps me the FUDGE out") as did the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration ("A MEGA-SHOOT-STORM IS ON THE HORIZON AND HUMANITY IS BRINGING IT ON OURSELVES") and the Department of Transportation, as it considered allowing phone calls on planes ("Listen to that SHOOT for hours on a plane no thank you"). Weirdly, some comments containing profanity were deleted, as the screen shot below shows.
Which brings us to the best, most comprehensive comment that came up in our search. It was to the IRS, of course, and neatly wraps up the entire exercise.
I urge the federal government to FUDGE-off
For that one, maybe it was worth maintaining the swear word.