Who’s Swearing Now? represents an investigation of how people actually swear, illustrated by a collection of over 500 spontaneous swearing utterances along with their social and linguistic contexts. The book features a focus on the use of eight swear words: ass, bitch, cunt, damn, dick, fuck, hell, shit and their possible inflections or derivations, e.g., asshole or motherfucker, offering a solution to the controversial issue of defining swear words and swearing by limiting the investigation to the core set of words most common to previous swearing studies. The specific focus results in accurate depictions of contextualized swearing utterances. Precise frequency counts are thus enabled which, along with offensiveness ratings of contextualized and non-contextualized swearing, enable a clarification of The Swearing Paradox, referring to the phenomenon of frequently used swear words also being those which traditionally are judged to be the most offensive.
The book revisits the relationship between gender and swear word usage, but considers the distribution based on the core subset of swear words, revealing similarities where others have claimed differences. Significantly, Who’s Swearing Now? considers the aspect of race with regards to swear word usage, and reveals behavioral differences between, for example, White and African American males and females with regards to word preferences as well as social impetuses for and effects of swearing. Questionnaire and interview data supplement the swearing utterances, revealing participants’ individual credos about their own use or non-use of swear words and, interestingly, about others’ allowed or ideally prohibited use of swear words. These sets of data present thought-provoking and often entertaining statements regarding the unwritten set of rules governing swearing behavior.
Who’s Swearing Now? concludes with close analyses of four recent and highly publicized incidences of public swear word usage, considered in light of the spontaneous swearing utterances, speaker and addressee variables such as gender, race and age, and perceptions of offensiveness and propriety.