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New poll reports more Americans hearing, using profanity
[April 10, 2006]

New poll reports more Americans hearing, using profanity

(Comtex Community Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge)UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa., Apr 10, 2006 (Daily Collegian, U-WIRE via COMTEX) --Parents might want to consider washing their children's mouths out with soap, given the results of a recent poll that reports people are using and hearing profanity more than ever.

An Associated Press/Ipsos poll asked 1,000 adults, age 18 years or older, about their opinions and habits regarding profanity use.

Seventy-four percent of Americans report hearing profanity in public either frequently or occasionally; 66 percent think swear words are used more often than 20 years ago; and 46 percent say they use profanity two times a week or more.

For some Penn State students, profanity has already become a part of their everyday language.

"I guess it's so commonplace, I don't think anything about it," Aaron Rape (senior-physics) said.

Rape said he definitely thought Americans were using more curse words than in the past.

"My theory would be the snowball effect," Rape said. "You hear someone saying it, and you don't think it's a big deal."

The study also found that 67 percent of polled individuals said they were bothered by others' use of profanity, though they reported using profanity themselves. This suggests an interesting double standard, Research Manager for Ipsos Public Affairs Michael Gross said.

"Even people that say they are bothered by profanity may find themselves in circumstances where they feel the need to swear," he said.

Michelle Fritts (senior-journalism) said State College, Pa.'s student population makes the use of profanity more acceptable.

"In a college town, it's such a common part of the language, it doesn't bother people," Fritts said.

In an area with more children and older people, however, "you could easily offend someone or give a child its first word," Fritts said.

However, Gross said the survey found that profanity use is not region-specific.

"One of the more interesting things in the poll [is that] we didn't find any differences geographically with how much people swear," he said.

S. Shyam Sundar, associate professor of communications and co-director of the Media Effects Research Laboratory, said he thought media influences had an effect on the language habits of many Americans.

"I'd like to think of this as kind of a 'Sopranos' effect," Sundar said, referring to the popular HBO mafia drama.

"As it turns out, Tony Soprano and others use the f-word and all kinds of bad language all throughout the program," Sundar said. "It kind of communicates that this is the norm of how people speak privately."

Dana Siegel (senior-communication sciences and disorders) agreed with Sundar's ideas. "I think, especially on TV, they're allowing more profanity," Siegel said.

In response to this trend, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is creating stiffer regulations and punishments, Gross said.

"There have been reports that the FCC has been handing out a lot more fines lately," he said.

However, media outlets are not the only places where college students hear profanity.

"If it's a professor, in the right context, it can be humorous," Siegel said. "But it can also be unprofessional."

Fritts said that although she uses profanity "all the time," she finds herself exercising self-control when in certain company.

"I was at a powwow at Mount Nittany Middle School [this weekend]," she said. "I constantly had to curb my language."

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