Acceptability of Swear Words

The BSA has done a survey of what words New Zealanders find unacceptable to use on air.

In order of unacceptability, they are:

  1. Cunt 74%
  2. Nigger 66%
  3. Mother Fucker 66%
  4. Jesus Fucking Christ 65%
  5. Cocksucker 60%
  6. Get fucked 55%
  7. Fuck off 52%
  8. Fuck 51%
  9. Faggot 46%
  10. Cock 46%
  11. Retard 44%
  12. Slut 43%
  13. Whore 40%
  14. Wanker 37%
  15. Arsehole 35%
  16. Jesus Christ 31%
  17. Dick 30%
  18. Prick 27%
  19. Jesus 27%
  20. Piss 26%
  21. Bitch 26%
  22. God 24%
  23. Piss off 24%
  24. Bastard 23%
  25. Shit 22%
  26. Balls 21%
  27. Bullshit 17%
  28. Crap 14%
  29. Bollocks 12%
  30. Bloody 12%
  31. Bugger 11%

This got me wondering where personally I would draw the line. But thinking about it, I wouldn’t have a line.

In the right context, in a program like Californication, on late at night, I’d say all 31 of those words can be acceptable.

But most of the top 21 words I would deem unacceptable on Morning Report on National Radio.

What is also interesting is what words are more acceptable in 2009 than in 1999. The major changes are:

  1. Fuck +19%
  2. Prick +16%
  3. Bitch +16%
  4. Whore +15%
  5. Arsehole +14%
  6. Bastard +13%
  7. Mother Fucker +12%
  8. Cock +12%
  9. Balls +12%
  10. Piss +12%
  11. Wanker +11%
  12. Bullshit +11%

The context of words is also, for me, important. Saying you had a cunt of a day, is different to calling someone a cunt. The fuck word hardly even registers with me, but “fuck you” is usually very offensive.

As a pollster, I note the 2009 poll was done online, and previous ones were done face to face. You have to feel sorry for the polling staff who had to knock on doors and read out a list of swear words and ask people their responses to them 🙂

Incidentally I guess this post will get the blog blocked by many Government Departments for a week or so, as they use swear word filters.

UPDATE: The full results are interesting. It turns out they tested the 31 swear words in 10 different scenarios, being:

  1. People being interviewed or asked to give opinions in news, documentaries and current events programmes on TV or radio
  2. In a television drama screened after 8.30pm (e.g. Grey’s Anatomy, Criminal Minds)
  3. In a television drama or comedy screened between 7pm and 8.30pm (e.g. Shortland Street, Coronation Street, Two and a Half Men)
  4. Comedians in stand-up comedy programmes played on radio or shown on TV after 8.30pm
  5. In a reality television programme where a lot of the content is spontaneous and does not follow a script (e.g. Hell’s Kitchen, Border Patrol, The Apprentice)
  6. In a music video played on television
  7. When used by a caller to a talkback radio station
  8. When used by a radio host on a talkback radio station
  9. When used by a radio host in a breakfast programme
  10. When used in a song played on radio.

Only five words were deemed by a majority to be unacceptable in all 10 scenarios – cunt, nigger, mother fucker, jesus fucking christ and cocksucker.

Only 7% of respondents said “cunt” was acceptable in all 10 scenarios. Even I don’t go that far. I would say “cunt” is acceptable in scenarios 1, 2, 4, 5, 6 and 10 but not 3, 7, 8 and 9.

Four words are deemed to be acceptable by a majority on all 10 scenarios – bugger, bloody, bollocks and crap.

I found amusing on page 31, the list of other words that respondents offered up as unacceptable. They included:

Fuckety fucking fucker

Heh I like that phrase.

Ask Hone Harawira as he seems to have a dictionary of inappropriate words

Heh. Someone also listed John Key as a swear-word.

baldhead (the derogitory term for a white New Zealander)

Is it? Never heard of that one.


Ha. Someone is think skinned.

“Brian Tamaki” Anything Paul Henry Says


Honky, Hairyback, Redneck, Grognard, Nerd, Buttmunch, toerag, Porch monkey, User, American, cheesebucket.

Goodness, that respondents had a long list.

cum oven mcnugget

I can’t work out if the respondents means those words individually are offensive, or as one phrase.

On BattleStar Galatica they use “frackin” or “frack” which means they get to air the programme earlier than 8.30pm. It is obvious that it is just a substitute for the other ‘F’ word and I don’t think it’s acceptable.

Oh what a killjoy, They should frack off.

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