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Marchex Data Reveals Ohioans Curse the Most in the Country; Washingtonians the Least

by Marchex | May 15, 2013


By Sonia Krishnan, Director of Corporate Communications for Marchex

Are you f*&!ing serious?

As a native Buckeye who’s lived in Washington for eight years, this was my first reaction to the data analysis released today by our Marchex Institute, which found that people in Ohio curse the most in the country.  Washingtonians, by contrast, curse the least. (WTF?)

The data also placed Ohioans in the Top 5 “Least Courteous” category. Apparently, residents there have a harder time saying “please” and “thank you,” which were the keywords that Marchex’s Call Mining technology scanned for when aggregating data on pleasantries.

It’s fascinating stuff. And it coincides with National Etiquette Week, a seven-day ‘gentle reminder,’ if you will, to be civil and courteous to one another.

The Institute, Marchex’s data and research team, examined more than 600,000 phone calls from the past 12 months. The calls were placed by consumers to businesses across 30 industries, including cable and satellite companies, auto dealerships, pest control centers and more.

The Institute scanned for curse words from A to F to S. Analysts then linked the frequency of those words with all 50 states.

Following Washington in the “Goody Two Shoes” category – states where people are least likely to curse – were Massachusetts (2nd place), Arizona (3rd place), Texas (4th place), Virginia (5th place).

Ranking behind Ohio in the “Sailors” category – states where people are most likely to curse – were: Maryland (2nd place), New Jersey (3rd place), Louisiana (4th place), Illinois (5th place).

Ohioans curse more than twice the rate of Washingtonians, according to the data. Washingtonians curse about every 300 conversations. Ohioans, on the other hand, swore about every 150 conversations.

The data also found that:

  • 66% of curses come from men
  • The calls that contain the most cursing are more than 10 minutes long. So the longer someone is on the phone, the more likely that call is to devolve.
  • Calls in the morning are twice as likely to produce cursing as calls in the afternoon or evening.

The Institute also aggregated state-by-state data on who says “please” and “thank you” the most. The Top 5 “Most Courteous” states were: South Carolina (1st place), North Carolina (2nd place), Maryland (3rd place), Louisiana (4th place), and Georgia (5th place).

(Anyone else sense a Southern hospitality theme here?)

Washington didn’t make the Top 5 for Most Courteous, but it did rank in the top third of the country for saying “please” and “thank you.”

The Top 5 “Least Courteous” states were: Wisconsin (1st place), Massachusetts (2nd place), Indiana (3rd place), Tennessee (4th place), and Ohio (5th place).

This, I suppose, bears repeating: Ohio was the only state to find itself in the “Sailor” and “Least Courteous” categories.

“Ohio’s state slogan used to be ‘The Heart of it All,’” said John Busby, Senior Vice President of the Marchex Institute. “One could argue this data adds an extra layer of meaning to that phrase.”

You could also argue Ohioans are simply transparent, passionate people. Maybe we do curse a little more and maybe we don’t mind our Ps and Qs as much as we should. So what? At least you know how we feel.

So Washington, take your “Least Likely to Curse” title and allow me to remind you of two chilling words: Seattle Freeze.

‘Nuff said.

— Sonia Krishnan


40 responses to “Marchex Data Reveals Ohioans Curse the Most in the Country; Washingtonians the Least”

  1. But this is a little misleading isn’t it? It didn’t study cursing in GENERAL. So what it’s really saying is that WA state residents are simply less likely to swear at strangers on the phone when discussing a product or service. Is there any socioeconomic data on the callers? What if people swear in other languages? Where can I get more information about this study?

  2. marchexinc says:

    Hi Malka – You’re right… this study only covers consumers calling businesses, and we only scanned for curses in English. Thanks for the feedback! – John Busby, Marchex Institute

    • Richard says:

      Us Canadians are known for our politeness, but I was recently at a home BBQ, invited by VP of a Canadian branch of Billion dollar international company. I couldn’t believe how overdone this guy’s cursing was. He flies to all sales regions in the Coundry and speaks this way with to his sales people. In my opinion, ‘the use of’ and especially ‘the liberal use of’ curse words show disrespect to the people you’re dealing with. Being courteous goes a long way even if it’s short and to the point.
      O.K, and if not F.O.

      • Eugene Shanor says:

        I agree Canadians in general are more polite and less, shall we say “cursive.” ( ok, I had to get that out of my system) Seriously, however, profanity-laced speech can be a characteristic of various psychiatric conditions, such LaTourette’s syndrome.

  3. Curious if this also means that businesses are more likely to make false promises, or have poorer customer support, in states that ranked higher in consumer profanity. Assuming that the profanity was caused by frustration, one can argue that businesses are more likely to give customers the runaround, avoid direct answers, or make false promises in those states. I have no idea what the subject of each call was about, or the context which the profanity was said, so this is just a guess 🙂

  4. Oddly enough I refuse to swear on the phone to businesses because I feel it’s inappropriate and will likely cause me to not make any progress with my issue and make it a point to always say “please” and “thank you” for those same reasons meanwhile I will admit that in my everyday life I cuss like a sailor and I am a born and bred Buckeye.

    • If you cuss on the phone, they are given the green-light to hang up on you. Therefore I generally censor myself on the phone. Day-to-day activities and convos, tho…don’t listen to me with your sensitive ears.

  5. I refuse to swear on the phone as well to businesses. And I also say please and thank you. I think the reason why most people in our state cuss is having to wait a half hour on the phone after we make our calls to actually get a live person on the phone. Not just that but most businesses make you push button after button on your phone as well to get transferred to the so called right department and then when you do get a live person on the phone they usually are tier 1 support and end up transferring you to a tier 2 support that ends up ringing busy and making you wait another 15 or 20 minutes before someone picks up. I can see why your study is so skewed as there are times I want to yell and cuss at the people I called after waiting so long but I know it wont help my situation and just makes the person at the other end mad. Also I am not sure as your study does not say it, but did you use the same amount of calls from each state in your study to make the study more honest as if you had more calls from Ohio in your study then of course the study would have a higher chance of showing more Ohioans as cussing.

    • marchexinc says:

      Hi Thomas – Thanks for your feedback. For this study we looked at the rate of cussing (the percentage of conversations that include a curse for each state). — John Busby, Marchex Institute

  6. nsubtirelu says:

    “The Institute, Marchex’s data and research team, examined more than 600,000 phone calls from the past 12 months. The calls were placed by consumers to businesses across 30 industries, including cable and satellite companies, auto dealerships, pest control centers and more.”

    I would like to know whether callers from each state were calling the same businesses. I think a much more important factor here is going to be who you’re calling and for what purpose. Depending on how the data was collected, region may have only a spurious relationship to the actual frequency of swearing and markers of politeness.

  7. ShawnT says:

    It’s the statistical implication Malka. Can’t speak on the language, but if you are willing to cuss at a complete stranger–one who may also have the ability to make the outcome of the product/service being discussed a more or less positive one–over the phone, you can assume the person is inclined to cuss in general day-to-day activities. I’ve never had a job where at least some of my co-workers (including upper management) didn’t cuss, in person and via emails. Teachers cuss at kids, kids at teachers, professors to students vice-a-versa.

    I with Rissa on tactfulness during service-related phone conversations though. But I do know two things nearly guaranteed to get the majority of Ohioans to cuss though: Michigan sports (really, F*!% Michigan)…and traffic/dumba**es who can’t drive for sh*t.

    • 🙂 I get the implication, I just don’t agree with it. Statistics are already generalizations based on information from a smaller sample (strategic & mathematical, but still). No need to generalize on a generalization, then all you have is a bunch of bullsh*t. As a partially-bred Buckeye who currently lives in Washington state, I find this study highly interesting.

      Like Rissa, I make it a point to be courteous to customer service reps. I’ve had those jobs and they suck, you’re not the one who provided the sh*tty service or f*cked up product, but you’re the one who has to apologize for it, and you sooo don’t get paid enough.

      I’ve been told I curse a lot, but it’s not usually aimed at someone. Unless they’re bein’ an a**hole and I think they need to know about it. But I am curious to know if the data included age and occupation and type of call (was it a call for information? or was there a problem with product/service?)

  8. If this was the criteria, what the study proved is that people in Ohio get to the point and don’t screw around. If a consumer is calling a business, it’s because there is a problem with the service or product they are paying to use. Is it expected that consumers say “please” to Time Warner in order for them to solve the problem, even though he or she pays $120 a month for cable and Time Warner has the worst service? Maybe that is why so many people in Ohio hate TWC. Although I do not condone profanity—it does not help the issue—using “please” and “thank you” is unnecessary when you call support for an issue that is likely the company’s fault.

  9. Chrissy says:

    Fuck that fucking shit.

  10. Jordan Dawson says:

    Are the full state lists for each of these available anywhere?

    • marchexinc says:

      Hi Jordan – Thanks for the question. We didn’t publish complete rankings, but we did place each state in a cursing and courteous “bucket” as reflected in the infographic. Due to the huge interest in the study, the team is considering a more detailed follow-up. Thank you! — John Busby, Marchex Institute

  11. Tammy says:

    Moved to Indiana a few years ago and absolutely agree–Hoosiers are RUDE!

  12. Art says:

    Lifelong Indiana resident and I have to agree with Tammy, it wasnt always this way. In the past 10 years there has been a shift in courtesy. Especially in food service people, more often I encounter DILLIGAF, do i look like I give a F–k.

  13. poppyitis says:

    Speech is only one way to determine the most polite places. I suggest you go to a large department or chain store (Costco, Walmart, etc.) and watch the customers as they move around with their carts. They are without a doubt, the rudest people in the world… Comment from Portland, Oregon

  14. John says:

    The study also doesn’t test to see the age of the respondents. Presumably an older audience would swear less. Just a guess on my part really

  15. Mark Other says:

    I am pretty sure the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, wherein I currently live, could have boosted the state as a whole into strong contention with its Buckeye neighbors. Unfortunately, according to these maps, it was disqualified from being part of the United States. What the fuck?

  16. Mabster says:

    Haha pretty interesting to see that NJ is high in cursing, but also high in pleases & thank yous!

    • marchexinc says:

      Yes, we thought that was interesting as well. It appears New Jersey is mindful at least of saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ when telling customer service reps where to go. 🙂

  17. Brianna C. says:

    As a lifelong resident of Minnesota, despite still being young, I can say that ‘Minnesota Nice’ is no longer true, as the study clearly shows.
    Working retail gives you a pretty clear indication of just how rude people can be.

  18. Great study and I would love to see the complete list! Previous commenters have discussed how they self censor when talking to customer service people for obvious reasons: the person on the phone isn’t at cause and you want them to help not hurt you.

    That makes the study even more valid, IMO. If a person is willing to curse in that situation, they really are rude.

    • marchexinc says:

      Thanks for the great feedback, Julie! Really appreciate you sharing your point of view. Let us know if you have any questions and we’re happy to answer as best as we can. We also have a lot of great data coming out this year, so do check back on our blog. Thank you!

  19. The Old Coach says:

    Study mist have focused only on major cities. Here in rural Ohio nobody ever curses. Big change from when I lived and worked in S.E. Michigan.

  20. Bj Lincoln says:

    I needed the laugh. I grew up in Ohio where swearing is common and politeness is not then moved to Maryland where swearing is common but politeness is important.
    NO wonder it felt like home but ….the people are so damn friendly!

  21. Kyle says:

    Ohio, the state so nice, Hi is our middle name.

  22. tim says:

    Cursing means much less than it did not too long ago. Once upon a time, when you used profanity, you really meant it. Most of it I hear today doesn’t amount to much more than a verbal place holder.

    • marchexinc says:

      Thanks for the comment, Tim. Interesting perspective that lends itself to a bigger discussion on the integration of cursing into modern-day vernacular.

  23. As an Ohioan I can attest to the fact that profanity/cursing is a way of life here. It’s pretty normal to drop f-word, h-word, s-word, d-word… etc. in polite conversation.

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  26. […] the swearing on customer service calls came from men and that calls made in the morning were about twice as likely to contain some R-rated language. Most of the curse-laden calls also lasted more than 10 minutes, […]

  27. […] the swearing on customer service calls came from men and that calls made in the morning were about twice as likely to contain some R-rated language. Most of the curse-laden calls also lasted more than 10 minutes, […]

  28. […] the swearing on customer service calls came from men and that calls made in the morning were about twice as likely to contain some R-rated language. Most of the curse-laden calls also lasted more than 10 minutes, […]

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