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Most Awful Words In English

The relative severity of various profanities, as perceived by the British public, was studied on behalf of the broadcasting industry and the results published in 2000 in a paper called Delete Expletives.

Listed below are the worst 20 profanities in order of decreasing severity, with the percentage of respondents who considered the profanity to be very severe or fairly severe. Only about 4% thought the c-word was mild or not swearing, while 69% thought bugger was mild or not swearing.

The c-word 96%
M*th*rf*ck*r 94% (see note 1 below)
The f-word 93%
Wanker 74%
Nigger 68%
Bastard 66%
Prick 62%
Paki 60%
Whore 59%
Bollocks 57%
Arsehole 56%
Spastic 56% (see note 2 below)
Shag 55%
Twat 53%
Piss off 50%
Slag 50%
Shit 42%
Dickhead 42%
Arse 31%
Bugger 31%

Note 1

The original meaning of this term was in referring to invading soldiers who had sex for some trivial payment with local mothers who only agree out of their desperate need to look after their children. The mothers don't want to have sex, but the alternative is watching their children go hungry. Coupled to this is the implication that the men are incapable of seducing non-desperate women.

Note 2

One of the most interesting of the profanities is spastic. It was until fairly recently considered a normal word describing cerebal palsy and even used in the name of the associated charity, The Spastics Society. Using spastic in a derogatory way grew considerably in the 1980s. This is sometimes attributed to the children's show Blue Peter. During 1981, the International Year of Disabled Persons, several episodes featured a man with cerebral palsy, and spastic became a popular insult amongst children at that time.

The word then gradually dropped out of common usage as the majority of British society came to regard it as offensive and politically incorrect. Even The Spastics Society changed its name to Scope in 1994. In contrast, spastic currently remains completely inoffensive in many other English speaking countries. Occasionally the word is used to mean clumsy in American and Australian films and television prorammes.

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