Congratulations, Ohio! You Are the Sweariest State in the Union

Phone-call data track the distribution of courtesy (and the lack of it) over recorded conversations. We'd thought better of you, Buckeyes.
Marchex

There's a relatively long tradition, in the field of data visualization, of tracking the way we swear. This makes sense. Not only is it fun to track, but cursing is also conveniently specific as a data set; you've got your f-bombs and your double hockey sticks and your bodily functions, and, factoring in their permutations, you're good to go. Plus, you don't need much sophisticated sentiment analysis to ensure that your data are accurate: An f-bomb is pretty much an f-bomb, regardless of the contextual subtleties. As a result of all this, we, the public, get treated to sweary heat maps. And more sweary heat maps. And sweary interactive maps. There's just something about big data and sailor-cursing that complement each other—like peanut butter and mothereffing jelly

Traditionally, those maps are based on text—on swears that are typed into Facebook or, even more publicly, Twitter. Making a map of the sweariest states requires simply gathering geocoded posts, isolating the swears, and going from there. 

A new map, though, takes a more complicated approach. Instead of using text, it uses data gathered from ... phone calls. You know how, when you call a customer service rep for your ISP or your bank or what have you, you're informed that your call will be recorded? Marchex Institute, the data and research arm of the ad firm Marchex, got ahold of the data that resulted from some recordings, examining more than 600,000 phone calls from the past 12 months—calls placed by consumers to businesses across 30 different industries. It then used call mining technology to isolate the curses therein, cross-referencing them against the state the calls were placed from.

The findings? 

People in Ohio cursed the most as compared to every other state in the Union: They swore in one out of about every 150 phone conversations. Ohio was followed, respectively, by Maryland, New Jersey, Louisiana, and Illinois.

And who swore the least? Washingtonians. They cursed, on average, during one out of every 300 conversations. (Yes, this means that Ohioans swear at more than twice the rate of Washingtonians. Because when Ohioans do something, apparently, we put our goddamn minds to it.)

Marchex

Marchex also attempted to measure more general indications of courtesy—using "please" and "thank you," that kind of thing. And you know who came in for another shout-out? Hello again, Ohio. The other least-courteous states, in order: Wisconsin, which took first place, Massachusetts, Indiana, and Tennessee.

And the most courteous? South Carolina (first place!), North Carolina, Maryland, Louisiana, and Georgia.

Marchex gathered some other FunFacts from the call-recording data, as well:

  • 66 percent of curses came from men
  • The calls that contain the most cursing are more than 10 minutes long. So the longer someone is on the phone, the more likely that call is to devolve.
  • Calls in the morning are twice as likely to produce cursing as calls in the afternoon or evening.

These track, I'd think, except for that last one: More swearing in the morning? Because people are in a hurry to get to work? Because they're newly caffeinated? Theories welcome. Actually, since I'm a native Ohioan, I guess I should say: Your damn theories are welcome.  

Presented by

Megan Garber is a staff writer at The Atlantic.

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