NGram Viewer: Curse Words


In looking into what type of words I should use in the NGram Viewer, I was at a loss. I had a variety of ideas of combinations to use but none of them seemed to really make sense or show any trends. So, I did what any mature college student would do: plug in common curse words and see what happened. The results genuinely surprised me.

According to the NGram, there was an influx in the usage of ass, bitch, damn, fuck, and shit around the late 1950s and early 1960s. Prior to that time period, the only word that was consistently being used was ass. From its peak in 1822, the usage of ass decreased until 1957 when began to increase again. In retrospect, before the late 1950s, ass was probably not referring to the gluteus maximus or rude behavior but rather referred to donkeys. The usage of damn was fairly minimal until 1875 when the usage of damn spiked in 1944 which so happens to be towards the end of World War II. From there, damn was not as prevalent until 1964 where it started to trend up again. Bitch, not being used as much as I thought, didn’t really begin to start trending upwards until the 1920s. There was a period from 1936 to 1965 where the usage of bitch plateaued before increasing again. In the cases of shit and fuck, neither word showed much of a presence until the upwards slope from 1965.

Before creating this NGram, I did not think that there would be a specific or central time period in which these word were being used. After looking into this chart, it is evident that the late 1950s and early 1960s started many of the trends in vernacular that are still being used by millennials in today’s era. Starting in the 60s, America went through a major cultural transformation in which there were more liberal ideals, protests, and questioning of authority. It was a time period of empowerment which is still a concept modern society is trying to grasp.

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