Women use f-word more than men - study
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London - There was a time when effing and blinding was seen as unbecoming of a woman. But not any more, it seems - for women are now using the f-word more than men, according to a study.
Experts say men using vulgar language influenced women to swear more, as did the drive towards equality of the sexes.
Data from the 1990s showed men used the f-word around 1,000 times for every million words spoken, whereas women used it just 167 times. But women have become ruder while men curbed their language. Women now say ‘f***’ 546 times per million words, compared to 540 times for men.
Professor Tony McEnery, research director of the Economic and Social Research Council, which is sponsoring the study, said: ‘It looks like there was a set of men who said the f-word a lot in the early Nineties, and they influenced women to do it.
‘As equality drives on, the idea that there is male and female language, that there are things which men and women should or should not say, is going to be eroded… Gentlemanly behaviour and ladylike language should become something of the past.’
Female celebrities including singer Adele, who is renowned for swearing during concerts, and actress Helen Mirren, who is also not averse to using the f-word, have perhaps influenced young women to feel freer to use rude language. Swearing, the study suggests, is most prevalent among 20-somethings.
Professor McEnery, a specialist in English language and linguistics at Lancaster University, said it is ‘more acceptable’ than ever before, adding: ‘We should not expect it to be suppressed as often as it was in the past.’
Although swearing is common on social media - one in every 13 tweets on average contains a profanity - using vulgar language on TV still causes a stir.
Last year Andy Murray defended his wife Kim after she was caught on camera yelling about his opponent Tomas Berdych during the Australian Open. She appeared to say: ‘F****** have that, you flash f***.’
Adele also said she was warned to moderate her language at this year’s Glastonbury Festival, which was broadcast live on BBC2 - although she still swore 33 times.
The study is thought to be the first to examine changes in language over a sustained period of time. More than 370 men and women volunteered to record around three hours of their conversations in 2014 for the study, which is also being sponsored by Cambridge University Press.
So far around half the conversations, some 10 million words, have been analysed. The researchers found homophobic words in common parlance in the 1990s, such as ‘pansie’, have all but disappeared.