Monday, September 7, 2015

Dayna Evans "Do You Live in a "B@%$#" or a "F*%&" State? American Curses, Mapped"

Warning: This research and story includes every paint-peeling obscenity in the book. Caution should be used when opening up these links on your work computer and you should really think long an hard before providing these links to your students. However, the research I'm about to describe 1) illustrates z-scores and 2) investigated regional usage of safe-for-the-classroom words like darn, damn, and gosh.

So, a linguist, Dr. Jack Grieve decided to use Twitter data to map out use of different obscenities by county of the United States. Gawker picked up on this research and created a story about it. How can this be used in a statistics class? In order to quantify greater or lessor use of different obscenities, he created z-scores by county and illustrated the difference via a color coding system. The more orange, the higher the z-score for a region (thus, greater usage) while blue indicates lesser usage. And, there are three such maps (damn, darn, and gosh) that are safe for use in class:

Fine Southern tradition of, frankly, giving a damn.

Northern Midwest prefers "Darn"...

...while Tornado Alley likes "Gosh". And New Jersey/NYC/Long Island/Boston doesn't like any of this half-assed swearing.

How to use in class? Z-scores, use of archival Twitter data. You can also discuss how mode of data collection effects outcomes. They collected data via Twitter. Is this a representative sample? Nope! Does the data reflect on the way that people speak or the way that people self-present?