Gosh, you never know who’s listening, right?

Here we have Jack Grieve, who studies forensic linguistics in the United Kingdom, and who created maps showing patterns of profanity across the United States.

How does one do this? Jeepers, it’s complicated. Basically, he noted the number of words tweeted on Twitter, county by county, then the frequency of various swearwords. He drew upon work by a researcher in geographic information science who’d collected 8.9 billion tweeted words, coded by location.

According to Strong Language, a blog about swearing (stronglang.wordpress.com), the results then were “smoothed using spatial autocorrection analysis, with Getis-Ord z-scores mapped to identify clusters.”

What does this mean? How the hell should I know?


Minnesota appears less potty-mouthed than other states, according to maps in which red denotes high use of profanity and blue means low — defying the notion of “blue” language.

Southerners, for example. Lawsy mercy, how they talk (or tweet). They outpace almost everyone when it comes to using the word that rhymes with witch, plus the word that also means manure, as well as damn and hell.

“Crap” is most used in northern Utah, and vast stretches of western Texas, Oklahoma and Tennessee.

But the heartland takes a back seat when it comes to using the F-word, which stretches up and down the coasts, making a U.S. map look like a vise grip of profanity. And ponder the band along the border with Mexico and, of all places, Maine for high use of the maternal variation.

Minnesota’s cuss of choice?

The Arrowhead records high use of the word that calls to mind a donkey … and an excavation. State residents prefer “darn” to “damn.” In fact, along with a small pocket in Mississippi, the Plains states say “darn” more than the rest of the country.

What to make of this? Remember, these data are drawn from Twitter, and it’s difficult to know how many Minnesotans use the dang thing.

Still, Professor Harold Hill warned in “The Music Man” about certain words creeping into a boy’s conversation, “words like ‘swell’ and ‘so’s your old man.’ ”

Maybe we’ve got trouble — or perhaps just too much spatial autocorrection analysis.


Kim Ode • 612-673-7185