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FYI Guy

Seattle Times news librarian Gene Balk crunches the numbers

May 14, 2013 at 10:17 PM

Study: Washington the least foul-mouthed state in the U.S.

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Cloud halo forms over Mt. Rainier (Photo: Bettina Hansen/The Seattle Times)

Your mother would be proud.

According to a new study, folks from Washington are less likely to use obscenities that anybody else in the country.

The study, conducted by Seattle-based mobile-advertising firm Marchex, took a novel approach.  Using speech-recognition technology known as “call mining,” the company gathered data from recorded telephone calls between customers and businesses around the U.S.  Conversations were scanned for polite words, like “please” and “thank you,” as well as curse words (use your imagination).

Marchex analyzed more than 600,000 calls placed over the past 12 months to businesses across 30 industries.  Only the vocabulary of the customers was evaluated, not that of the business representatives.

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With the data tabulated, the Evergreen State emerged as the primmest of the prim.  Only one out of every 301 Washingtonians dropped an f-bomb (or other expletive) in the course of a phone conversation.  That’s a 50 percent lower rate of cursing than the national average.  Folks from Massachusetts, even with their lingering Puritan heritage, could only place a distant second behind Washington.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, Ohioans curse at more than double the rate that we do–a profanity in one out of every 147 phone calls.

Washington didn’t score in the Top 5 for use of “please” and “thank you,” but we ranked in the upper third.  South Carolina was No. 1 in the courteous words category, while Wisconsin came in last.

Other findings from the study: 66 percent of cursing comes from men, and morning calls are twice as likely to produce cursing as afternoon or evening calls.

But the real surprise here is Washingtonians’ squeaky-clean vocabulary.  Why are we so out-of-step with the rest of the nation when it comes to cursing?  Are we a state full of goody-two-shoes?

Tell us how you feel about cursing.  How much do you do it?  Take our online poll — and tell the truth!

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Comments | More in Market Research | Topics: language

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