Kinja.com published an article called Swearing and Its Socioeconomic Baggage:

One of the most common complaint against swearing was the socio-economic baggage attached to it — simply put, that swearing often gives people the impression that you are uneducated, uncultured, or from a lower-class background.

Is it true that swearing often gives people the impression that you're uneducated, uncultured, or from a lower social class?

  • 6
    It certainly gives me that impression. "Vulgarity is the hallmark of a tragically limited vocabulary." (I don't know who originally said that, but it's always stuck with me.) Jun 30, 2016 at 20:13
  • 2
    @MasonWheeler There's at least one study which seems to show that isn't true: sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S038800011400151X Jun 30, 2016 at 21:35
  • 1
    This seems like a more anthropological question, and the anthropological answer (really, the anthropology answer for everything) is: Depends on the culture.
    – Nich Del
    Jun 30, 2016 at 21:45
  • 1
    @NichDel is correct, this is highly culturally dependent and I believe probably too broad for us to answer here.
    – Ryan
    Jul 1, 2016 at 17:26
  • 3
    FFS, whoever publishes such blankety-blank [redacted] [censored] is a [omitted] [blank] of a [unprintable]. Lower social class: achievement unlocked.
    – user5341
    Jul 1, 2016 at 21:01

1 Answer 1


It's certainly not universal. In the UK, swearing is relatively common among the upper and lower classes and aversion to swearing is a primarily lower middle class trait. This has been studied quantitatively in this wonderfully-titled paper:

Swearing in Modern British English: The Case of Fuck in the BNC [British National Corpus]

Anthony McEnery and Zhonghua Xia

Language and Literature August 2004 vol. 13 no. 3 235-268, doi: 10.1177/0963947004044873

This summary puts it well:

They found that for “fucked” and “fucks”, most of the instances came from social class AB, the 27% of the population that are classed as upper and middle management or professional. The AB class also came second in the use of the plain form, “fuck”, and placed a credible third in the use of “fucking” and “fuckers”. The 23% of the population classed as DE – the unemployed through to semi-skilled manual workers – took the podium for most common used of “fuck”, “fucking”, and “fuckers”.

It’s the C1s, the lower middle class, who most strongly preserve the norms of good language. C1’s are the Hyacinth Buckets [class-obsessed sitcom character who insists her surname is pronounced like 'Bouquet'] of the British class system and they have a reputation of being the class most concerned with social appearances. The C1s always come in last of all the social classes in all forms of [the] word

The Encyoclopedia of Swearing (2006, subtitled "The Social History of Oaths, Profanity, Foul Language, and Ethnic Slurs in the English-Speaking World") has a whole chapter titled Class And Swearing, which identifies:

a mode of fashionable upper class swearing that was to become established in later [post-medieval] centuries

So it seems, in Britain's famously complicated class system, avoiding swearing in order to avoid giving the appearance of being lower class is a trait associated with being lower middle class, i.e. the class most associated with worrying about appearing lower class, and the way to appear higher class is to swear away as if you're comfortable enough of your higher class status that the idea of appearing lower class would be unthinkable.

For a famous illustrative example of swearing as done UK social class AB style, see the political satire The Thick Of It, a warts-and-all representation of the daily lives and chaos of UK political power-brokers, which even has a swearing consultant:

Could you tell me about your “swearing consultant”?

That’s not his only job, but he’s sort of become that. He’s a guy called Ian Martin. It’s become traditional that when we’ve sort of finalised the script, which he contributes to anyway, I send it to him in Lancaster and he sends it back and it’s got all this baroque swearing in it. “Hurricane of piss” and all that – that’s Ian, so he’s become known as our swearing consultant.

Upper-class swearing has been not uncommon in UK literature for decades too. Tom Sharpe's satires are a good example, though I can't find many good quotes online.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .