Carlin’s ‘seven dirty words’ used in books nearly 30 fold since ’50s, study finds

SAN DIEGO —  Grandparents, cover your ears (and eyes)! The most vile vulgarities of yesterday have become commonplace in today’s literature, a new study finds.

Researchers at San Diego State University analyzed the content of thousands of archived American English texts in the Google Books database, looking for the incidence of George Carlin’s classic “seven words you can never say on television.”

Books on a shelf
A new study finds that the “seven dirty words” made famous by comedian George Carlin are used in today’s literature 28 times more than in the 1950s.

We won’t write them, but in case you’ve forgotten what they are (or can’t remember them all), you can watch the (NSFW) famous comedy act here.

The earliest books examined were published in 1950, while the most recent had been published in 2008.

Books published in the mid-2000s were found to, on average, use colorful language 28 times as much as tomes published circa 1950.

“The increases in swear words in books is part of a larger cultural trend toward individualism and free expression,” says professor and lead researcher Jean M. Twenge, who is the author of Generation Me, in a press release.

While Carlin was a bit daring in his time, “forty-five years after [his] routine, you can say those words on television — and in books,” Twenge adds.

Previous research has confirmed that Americans have become more individualistic over the past few decades, one manifestation of which may be a tendency to use language in a more liberal fashion.

“Millennials have a ‘come as you are’ philosophy, and this study shows one of the ways they got it: The culture has shifted toward more free self-expression,” Twenge concludes.

The study’s findings were published yesterday in the journal SAGE Open.


  1. How is it possible to conclude that there is a “larger trend toward individualism and free expression?” Every single day we read stories about groups who refuse to let someone speak because they disagree with their free expression. The exact opposite is true. I agree that the “seven words” are more common today than in the past, but that does not equate to less restrictive free expression. There are far more than the seven words that have been censored today than in Carlin’s time and there are much better explanations why today’s Millennials express themselves in such a manner.

    Perhaps they get enjoyment in the use of profanity, but they are far less tolerant towards freedom of expression. Having ignored the numerous possible conclusions for this phenomenon I will venture to guess that Professor Twenge is attempting to ingratiate himself with his students by his obsequious conclusions.

    “Just saying'”

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