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Trial and Error

Words, Words, Words: Dirty or Just Offensive?

July 7, 2008 7:51 AM

Are residents of Pensacola, Fla., more likely to search the Internet for “apple pie,” “watermelon” or “orgy”?

The defense in the trial of a pornographic Web site operator in Pensacola wants to prove that residents in that town are indeed more drawn to the salacious when they are alone in front of Google

The defense hopes to use such search terms to demonstrate that community standards—the barometer by which obscenity is judged—are broader than we might think.

It’s still unclear whether the defense will be allowed to use the data, but the case raises interesting questions about our mores, what we tell Google and how search data could be used in new ways.

So Silicon Alley Insider decided to use Google Trends to discern which U.S. towns are, in fact, the dirtiest. The online publication used the late George Carlin’s famous seven dirty words as a proxy for obscenity and found that the greatest percentage of Internet searches looking for those seven dirty words were:

1. Louisville, Ky.
2. Rochester, N.Y.
3. Philadelphia
4. Newark, N.J.
5. Los Angeles
6. Irvine, Calif.
7. Pittsburgh
8. Las Vegas
9. Albany, N.Y.
10. Orlando, Fla.

And while we’re on the subject of words, I want to go on a soapbox right now to discuss one word in particular. I hear a lot of people—often podcasters and other public personalities—use the word “retarded” to refer to something or someone they think is stupid. Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but I think we should use this word only when it actually applies; when someone truly is mentally disabled. I don’t think we should use the word to insult other people.


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