SparkNotes Blog

Is There Too Much Swearing in Teen Fiction?

Stop the presses!!!! Literally, stop the presses. A professor at Brigham Young University recently made a startling discovery about YA books: they contain an average of 38 instances of profanity, or 7 cu$$ words per hour spent reading. By golly, that’s a lot of swearing! She also found that the characters most often swearing are the wealthy, attractive, popular ones—in other words, the ones readers might be prone to imitate. We might chalk this up to a regular old case of potty mouth, except that the same professor recently published research that found a link between media profanity and teen aggression.

We have a couple of questions about the research. Like, are they counting words like “shucks” and “dagnabbit”? And is wanting to excise curse words from teen literature kind of like giving the movie Bully an R rating for language that could potentially damage the kids who are using it and having it hurled at them in their real lives? Also, where the **bleep** do you get off, you **bleeping** **bleep**, telling me what words I should and should not be **beeping* reading? It’s called freedom of **bleeping* expression.

Luckily, our SparkLife Think Tank has come up with an easy solution. In every YA book henceforth, the following curse words shall be replaced with these less offensive substitutes.

Instead of the B-word that rhymes with witch: Snirt

Instead of the S-word that rhymes with slit: Refuse (pronounced ref-yoos)

Instead of the A-word that rhymes with lass: Boom boom

Instead of the F-word that rhymes with luck: Slobberdoodle

Instead of the C-word that rhymes with hickory dickory dock: Grasshopper

Instead of the B-word that rhymes with (what rhymes with bastard?): Flannigan

Instead of the C-word that rhymes with blunt: Vagina

Instead of the P-word that is another word for cat: Prrrrrr (purring sound)

Instead of the word “slut” because it’s just as dirty and harmful as any of the above: Nothing. We’re retiring even this word’s meaning.

Are you offended by swearing in books? Or do you think it’s a matter of freedom of expression and authenticity of character? Is art just imitating reality?

Related post: Minorities in YA Books: Where Are They?