Kiwis' attitude to swearing softens - BSA

File photo / Thinkstock
File photo / Thinkstock

Kiwis' attitudes to foul language are softening slightly but the c-word is still considered to be the most unacceptable swearword, a survey has found.

The Broadcasting Standards Authority (BSA) survey of swearwords, which has been conducted four times since 1999, is aimed at measuring changes in public attitudes.

The latest results found the eight most unacceptable words were c***, n****r, Jesus f****** Christ, mother f*****, c***sucker, get f*****, f*** off and f***.

At least half the respondents found the expletives totally or fairly unacceptable if used in a television movie after 8.30pm.

The survey found that, compared with 2009, there was a lower level of unacceptability of c***, mother f*****, Jesus f****** Christ and c***sucker.

"We are seeing a slight softening of attitudes for some of these words but they still remain high on the list of unacceptability," BSA chief executive Susan Freeman-Greene said.

The survey measured 31 expletives, ranked from the most to the least unacceptable.

It found there has been a slight decline in the acceptability of less offensive words like balls, bulls*** and bloody since 2009.

Respondents were also asked to consider the acceptability of the 31 words in scenarios other than a television movie after 8.30pm.

The words and phrases were less acceptable when used by radio hosts in breakfast programmes and talkback, or when used by real people as opposed to actors and in music videos.

But they were more acceptable in stand-up comedy and dramas after 8.30pm, and in reality television where there was spontaneous content.

The survey also showed that men and younger people tended to be more accepting of the words and phrases, along with those who had no religious beliefs, and households on high incomes.

Maori were generally more accepting than those of other ethnicities, while Pacific peoples were less accepting.

Ms Freeman-Greene said the survey was one of the ways the BSA determined community norms, which helped to guide its deliberations when considering complaints about language.

"The extent to which people are offended by swearing varies markedly across different groups of society, and from individual to individual.

"This survey is a way for us to get a contemporary view on which words are taboo, and which ones are least unacceptable."

The online survey of 1500 New Zealanders aged over 18 was carried out by Nielsen in March.


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