Bad Language in Reality: A study of swear words, expletives and gender in reality television

University essay from Göteborgs universitet/Institutionen för språk och litteraturer

Abstract: This essay is a study on swearing in modern English on television from a sociolinguistic point of view, taking into account the effect that variables such as nationality, social class and gender might have on the expletive usage in the examined material. After a general discussion of expletives and their functions, the question of whether there is a relationship between gender and the use of expletives is addressed. A review of previous research on the subject suggests a difference in opinion between traditional sociolinguistic studies, in which the differences between male and female speech have often been highlighted, and where female speech has been characterized as more polite, aiming for standard language and avoiding expletives, while modern feminist critics argue that these are stereotypes perpetuated through the ages which have little support of empirical evidence. The second half of the paper reports the results from an investigation on the use of expletives in two reality television programs with the same basic features; one American – Jersey Shore, and one British – Geordie Shore. The results of this investigation seem to contradict the stereotypical notions of women as less prone to use expletives than men. Possible reasons for this, including group identity and social class, are discussed.

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