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The relationship between gender and profanity

by AirTalk®

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Are girls and boys, men and women, held to different standards when it comes to language? William Thomas Cain/Getty Images

Last week, young women at a New Jersey Catholic school have taken a vow to clean up their language. At the request of the high school’s officials, the female students signed a “no cursing” pledge, but the male students are exempt. “We want the ladies to act like ladies,” a teacher told the local newspaper.

There are obviously stereotypes when it comes to gender and the use of language, and profanity is no different. Think of how you react when you hear a man swear, and then how you feel when you see a woman utter the same words. Does it affect you differently? Are there some curse words that are seen as female and some as male? How to the two sexes use profanity when in each other’s company? There’s also a generational aspect. While ladies used to be prim and proper, if you wander around a highschool or college campus today, you’ll hear the women dish out four-letter words just as much as the men.

So why the distinction between genders? How often do women swear compared to men? And are they judged differently for it? Do you swear more than most other women? Or are you a man who doesn’t like to curse? Call in to AirTalk and let us know. Oh, and watch your language.

Michael Adams, Associate Professor of English Language and Literature at Indiana University in Bloomington

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