For last week’s Casual Fridays study we asked respondents to answer James Lipton’s famous ten questions from Inside the Actor’s Studio. In case you’ve never seen the show, here are the questions:
What is your favorite word?
What is your least favorite word?
What turns you on?
What turns you off?
What sound or noise do you love?
What sound or noise do you hate?
What is your favorite curse word?
What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
What profession would you not like to do?
If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?
What we wanted to know is if we could identify any recognizable patterns in the answers. Are responses completely random, or do characteristics like age, gender, occupation, and so on, have an effect?
The short answer is “no” — they don’t have much of an effect at all. There was an incredible amount of variety in the responses. Out of 509 respondents, the most popular word, “Love” was the favorite of just 10 — less than 2 percent of responses. There was a little more regularity with least favorite words. Topping the list was “cunt,” with 24 picking it as their least favorite. But still, this represents less than 5 percent of all responses. The next four “least favorite” words were moist (20 respondents), no (16), hate (11) and fart (7). One unexpected word that garnered a large favorable response was onomatopoeia, chosen by 5 respondents as their most favorite word — the fourth most popular word, in a tie with “thanks” and “awesome.” Two respondents each chose some exceptionally unusual words: defenestrate, schadenfreude, and discombobulate. Overall, 39 words were chosen more than once as favorites, representing 115 individuals. This means nearly 400 people chose completely unique words as their favorites.
But of course, you’re probably most interested in our respondents favorite curse words. Fair warning: the language gets a lot more graphic from here on out, so don’t click through if you don’t want to see it.
This graph shows the most popular curse words among our respondents:
As you can see, “Fuck” dominates the list of favorite curse words, with 167. If you include all forms of the word (motherfucker, fuck nuts, Jesus fuck, and so on), the count increases to 219, nearly half of all responses.
Despite the dominance of “fuck,” there really wasn’t much of a pattern in its usage. There was no significant difference in usage between men and women. Older people were only slightly less likely to use it, as were those who professed a religious belief.
A few respondents self-censored their responses, saying “f*ck” or “f***” instead of “fuck,” but once again, there was no pattern in the use of censorship. Even religious believers didn’t censor the word more than non-believers.
One interesting comparison we can make is between this study and our curse-word study from 2007, where we asked people to rate 11 words for offensiveness. Here are some of those results:
So how did our results compare? Interestingly, just three of the words from our 2007 study were chosen as anyone’s favorite curse word: fuck, cunt, and bitch. Why? If I had to guess, I’d say that people don’t choose truly offensive words as their favorites — thus eliminating nigger and fag. Similarly, relatively inoffensive words like gay, penis, suck, and vagina, were also not chosen. People want their curse words to have some bite to them, just not too much. Arguably, “cunt” might cross the line into true offensiveness, but note that women find the word significantly more offensive than men — and 17 of the 22 respondents who picked cunt as their favorite curse word were indeed men.
You might also be interested in some of the other top responses. This table gives a snapshot:
For more of the results, you can check out the complete responses here. (Note that the total number of responses doesn’t match because we filtered out blank responses, and the survey is still open, so that number is constantly changing)
The final question on our study asked respondents if they had ever been in a play, movie, TV show or other dramatic production. In fact, the responses were almost perfectly divided, with 49.5 percent of respondents answering yes. But do actors respond to the Actor’s Studio questions any differently than non-actors? Not in any way we could measure.
(Just a reminder: All Casual Fridays studies are non-scientific. This doesn’t mean we can’t use scientific principles to assess what’s going on, but we can’t make general claims based on the results)