Ass, Shit, Bitch, Fuck

typical_librarian

The new-ish Google Ngram Viewer has been getting some well deserved love from data journalism and number-affiliated word vomit sites (aka my competitors). This tool draws on over 5.2 million books from between 1500 and 2008 that have been digitized by the Google Library Project and gives a graphical representation of how often different words and phrases are used. You can then paint with the world’s broadest brush and conclude that that represents that word/phrase’s place in culture over time.

To see Ngram used really well, take a look at this piece from the ‘Regressing’ blog at Deadspin. To see it used poorly, continue reading.

Before Mr. Fischer-Baum wrote his piece I believe he did a different type of analysis altogether that never got published. In fact, I would bet that if you, the reader, went to the Ngram Viewer now you would do the same thing.

You would type in cuss words.

Because no one was brave enough to post their results, I’ll do it, I’ll be the hero. For my list of words I went with what words off the top of my head would make my poor mother wince

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Some interesting narratives could be teased out of this. First, clearly the 60s were a helluva time. Second, I’m seeing some poop-related correlation between shit and ass. Third, there also seems to be some kind of relationship between anatomical cuss words. To investigate these more I divide into two categories; bad words that are about poop, and bad words that are about the sex bits. I know there’s probably some crossover there but I’m going to ignore that for simplicity.

Butt Stuff
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1997-98 was an incredible time for asses it seems, and I’m determined to know why. Sir Mixalot’s seminal ‘Baby Got Back’ was released in 1992 (conveniently, I was also released in 1992) so that can’t be it. The top song of 1997 was Elton John’s ‘Candle in the Wind’, I don’t think that’s it either. For nearly a decade (1995-2005) its increase in appearance was almost exactly the same as ‘shit”s, which could signal a general cultural acceptance of talking about butt related things, but as I mentioned, making sweeping generalizations about culture based off of Ngram is tricky.

Sex Bits
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Here the story is all about ‘cock’, it’s had a meteoric rise starting in 2000. I actually switched out the data for ‘cock’ with blood-flow to the penis during an erection. You have no way of knowing if I’m lying because the graphs would look the exact same 1985-2008.

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