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"Seven words you can never say on television"... but which are said on the Internet. A lot.
a post written by Patrick Ishmael
Posted Wednesday, February 28, 2007 @ 8:15 PM

Talk about potty-mouths. (If you're a returning visitor or you want to replicate what I did, scroll down to the bold red text for a relevant update.)

The Net's not always a kid-friendly place; there is plenty of foul language out there. And of course, the blogosphere is no different.

But how different are the Rightosphere and Leftosphere when it comes to "dirty" language? Which side produces the most profanity-laced diatribes? Via Instapundit, I happened upon this interesting challenge from InstaPunk:
I propose an exercise to be performed by those who have the software and expertise to carry it out. The exercise is this: Search six months' worth of content, posts and comments, of the 20 most popular blogs on the right and the left. The search criteria are George Carlin's infamous '7 Dirty Words.' [Click this link for the list of expletives.]
And this is what I found, using what I deemed -- through a mix of TTLB and 2006's Weblog Award lists -- to be the 18 biggest Lefty blogs, and 22 biggest Righty blogs. I couldn't account for the 6-month time period, and I even gave the Lefty blogs a 4 blog advantage. But it didn't make much of a difference.

So how much more does the Left use Carlin's "seven words" versus the Right? According to my calculations, try somewhere in the range of 18-to-1.


How did I get this result? I searched Google using the following format and recorded the page results that were returned:

site:xyz.com "search term 1" OR "search term 2" OR "search term 3"...

Nine search terms total -- the seven profanities as single words, and two of those as their own two-word variations. I then added the individual site results together and compared them. The results are below.

Of course... is anyone surprised? Barring some mass programming shenanigans on the part of Right blogospheric bloggers, this pretty well fits, and goes beyond, the predictions most of us would have made.

Feel free to replicate the experiment and send your results, or if you have a refinement to the method or blog lists, send those, too. We're always willing to add to the profanity data bank.

And of course, this isn't scientific. But hey, it's pretty @*%#$&! close.

(Cross-posted at Gateway Pundit.)

Update @ 9:16am: Great point by reader Joe.
What? No Democratic Underground? No IndyMedia? No FreeRepublic? No Townhall? No FrontPageMag?
And thus, the numbers:
It only gets worse... 1537788-to-37285. 41-to-1. Holy mackeral.

Update @ 11:27am: To clarify, I'm presenting this "study" to y'all as a way of ascertaining how often profanities appear on the pages of blogs, Left and Right. That's really it; the assessment of the phenomenon is for you to make... this is just a starting point.

Also, previously I wasn't taking a particular stance about the usefulness of vulgarity or making some commentary on "South Park conservatism." For our part at the News Buckit, we resist the use of profanities because, we feel, it gets in the way of the points we're trying to make.

That doesn't mean that profane posts aren't entertaining, or useful; some of my favorite blogs use a good amount of profanity. But there has to be a balancing of that language for honest and intelligent dialogue to take place, and I think we can agree that that doesn't always happen.

We invite your feedback (vulgar, or not.)

Update @ 5:24pm: John Hinderaker from Powerlineblog says the following on his News Bloggers site:
...when I looked at the chart that set forth the results of the survey, I found that 68 instances of the "seven words" were recorded for Power Line. This struck me as obviously wrong. I'm certain that six of the seven words have never appeared on Power Line at all, and the seventh (a four-letter word that starts with "s") has appeared only a time or two when we were quoting someone else.

So I ran the search on Power Line the same way it was done for the survey. What I found was that virtually all of the references that came up were in "trackbacks." This means that the language appeared on someone else's site, not ours.

I conclude from this that the survey was pretty badly flawed. Not only did it fail to distinguish between blog entries and comments, which is at least defensible, it failed to distinguish between words used on the site in question, and words used on a different site, which is not defensible.
I certainly won't dispute that this was by no means a perfect gauge of blogospheric vulgarity; it certainly leaves much to be desired. After all, I didn't exactly devote a lot of time to developing an extensive hypothesis and method.

And although I'm sure John is right about his site, the only way that this very basic survey would really be blown (IMHO) is if the errors found therein were especially pronounced.

Powerlineblog is a nationally-recognized and very well-read blog that has at least 17,300 pages to its name. Yet factoring the errant vulgarity count, that means that only .4% of its pages had erroneously been found to have had one of the "seven words." (Technically, it sounds like the words are in fact there, but that's not because of anything the PB guys have done and really doesn't speak to the point of the survey.)

But that .4% is a teeny tiny margin of error. Compare that to Democratic Underground, who at this very moment are humorously reveling in their newfound linguistic primacy and who apparently have no doubt that the 947,000 hits attributed to them are accurate. That's not a trackback problem... Definitely take a look. It's a party in there.

I do understand John's point, though. There are errors, and I have to admit that my biggest concern is with the LGF number that I Googled, so if someone can shed some light on that (maybe Charles? who notes the discrepancy), I'd be much obliged. In the big scheme, however, I just don't see the test being especially flawed.

And in the end, John and I do agree.
Having said that, I think the original point still stands, even if this survey does not precisely quantify it.
The quantification can definitely be improved. The question, now, is who's going to do it... and how?

Update @ 7:33pm: Pandagon's Amanda Marcotte weighs in.
Considering Patrick’s distaste for naughty words, I’m not entirely sure how he managed to do the searches that would create this data. Wouldn’t that require him actually typing in the words he thinks are far too distasteful to actually be typed?

Well, I guess it’s like censors everywhere—they have to carefully examine the porn multiple times before they determine that it’s unsafe for the less worthy others to use.
Nothing like a good ol' ad hominem attack.

Not sure where she got the idea I was trying to censor anyone, but hey, that's what you get when you don't really read the post you're commenting on, and comment on the post you wish was there.

Update 3/2 @ 10:18am: We've gotten a good amount of mail suggesting how the survey could be improved, and I agree with nearly all of it. However, we've also gotten a lot comments about what the survey means, and I wanted to bring to light one reoccurring theme -- the "so what?" theme -- that I'm not really understanding, at least in the way it's being justified. An example from reader James:
...I'm inclined to suggest that you have caught yourself a genuine red herring. We have serious problems that we need to deal with as a nation and I have little use for wall-to-wall news coverage of Anna Nicole Smith or for people complaining about the use of foul language.

To me, it's as if we're all standing in a burning building and somebody says, "let's get the *expletive* out of here," and somebody else says, "I'm not going to consider your point until you can speak politely."

I'm not ready to die in a fire to make a point about manners.
Die in a fire? I pretty well agreed with James' criticisms up until this point. But I find it to be a "red herring" to claim that there is some immanent threat before us that demands widespread, "move-your-buns-or-you're-going-to-die" profanity. It assumes that we can only deal with issues sequentially (as in, you fix profanity, or you fix Iraq, but not both,) which is just silly and not all that intellectually honest. No one's trying to trick people into devoting their time to fixing online profanity over solving the problems of the Middle East.

But assuming that we can only deal with these issues one at a time, are we really living under threat of imminent peril (and from whom)? The answer to that, I think, may help explain the results that came out this initial, and imperfect, assessment.

It's one thing to disagree with the survey if it was displacing other, more pressing issues. I just don't feel that it is.

Update 3/2 @ 4:02pm: From an email, a recurring theme --
Really, who cares? This is the best use of your time? Please, get a life and develop an interest in something that matters.
Again, it's the "who cares" response. But to clarify, I spent about an hour and a half figuring out a method (which everyone can easily replicate) and using it on all of the sites that appear above. As far as answering the question that spurred this post -- to search the "content, posts and comments, of the 20 most popular blogs on the right and the left. The search criteria are George Carlin's infamous "7 Dirty Words""-- I think the method was generally pretty good, and that's pretty much been the consensus so far. Perfect, no, and as I said from the outset, this really isn't an exercise in science. But it certainly wasn't an unreasonable attempt, or an attempt I spent an inordinate amount of my life developing.

And as far as wasting my time? Given the response, I'd say it was time well spent. I'm sure our reader would begrudgingly agree.

Also: On the "For future debate" front, one Meebo respondent presents the following:
...I did the ratio of "7 words" to pages for Daily Kos (260,000 pages with 155,000 "7words") and the Free Republic (466,000 pages with 3840 "7 words"). I chose Free Republic since it's the foulest and I wanted to give benefit of the doubt. In any case, the ratio is even more pronounced with DailyKos at 1 profanity every 2 pages and Freep at 1 every 121 pages for a ratio of 60 to 1, Kos...
Recheck this finding, but it's certainly interesting.

Also, I've been getting
a lot of mail on this point, but if you are going to try to replicate the procedure and (for some) claim that you've "debunked" it, (updated) you have to use the same format and search settings that I did.
  1. You can't have "www." in the site portion of the search, and
  2. You have to have all nine entries.
  3. You have to make sure you're searching in any language, not just English.
  4. I think that's it. Tell me if you think I'm leaving something out.
Otherwise, you're not keeping the proper controls in place for a proper comparison. Just an FYI.

And also: Searching the words individually and adding them up doesn't work, either. The search used here actually counts pages with multiple uses of the "7Ws" as one hit. Thus, if you add the separate searches together, you're very likely double/triple/septuple counting pages.*

*Using the DailyKos guy's methodology, DailyKos doesn't have 146,000 profane pages, but nearly 450,000 [sum of search terms 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9]. In their word, it seems pretty "conveeeenient" that they didn't reveal that little hiccup in their debunk. Now, if we interpolate for the time being** and say that between the methods, the LGF number is about 1/3rd of whatever Daily Kos is (using his resulting ratio but my method's Kos number), that's fine; that puts LGF at 40,000 7W pages, which sounds about right. That brings the overall ratio down from the revised 41-to-1 to -- you almost guessed it -- 19-to-1.

**Like I've said, the LGF number is problematic because searching the comments section is so difficult, especially in the form that I've tried. Tell me if you know how this can be done.

Update 3/2 @ 11:20pm: And you can file this under... and BMBS observes.

In any case... it's time to post up the weekly "Friday Night Culture Shot." What could it be?


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