RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Most of us like to think we comport ourselves with a certain level of civility. But apparently phone calls with customer service representatives of all stripes can lead us into, shall we say, more colorful speech. The bottom line: frustrating phone calls like these make us swear. The ad firm Marchex did some research using those recorded customer service calls and they published new data on where in the United States people swear the most. So, the next time your hear...
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: To ensure quality service, your call may be monitored or recorded.
MARTIN: ...mind your Ps and Qs, people. The Atlantic's Megan Garber joins me now to explain who's doing a good job of it and who wouldn't suffer from a semester at finishing school. Hey, Megan.
MEGAN GARBER: Hi, there.
MARTIN: So, what does the research exactly say? What were they looking at?
GARBER: They were looking at the usage of different words. So, you can sort of imagine - I won't say them for you - but you can imagine some of the keywords that they might have searched for in their data set and then they were cross-referencing their findings against the geographic origin of the phone calls.
MARTIN: OK. And Marchex looked at both where people swear and where they're the most polite, using phrases like please and thank you in these phone calls.
GARBER: They did indeed.
MARTIN: But to be blunt about this, Megan, your home state of Ohio performed abysmally.
GARBER: Both in terms of the swearing and in terms of the lack of courtesy, I know. I have to admit there's a little part of me that's a little bit proud. Mostly I'm ashamed but a little bit proud as well.
MARTIN: So, which other states performed well or performed poorly?
GARBER: Following up Ohio in terms of the most profanity used in these conversations, it was Maryland then New Jersey then Louisiana and then Illinois.
MARTIN: Maryland kind of surprises me but the others makes sense to me.
GARBER: I know. I've spent a little time in New Jersey I have to say, so that one does not surprise me at all. And then in terms of the states that used the least amount of profanity, Washington, followed up by Massachusetts, which I actually found a little bit surprising.
MARTIN: Little surprising, yeah.
GARBER: And then Arizona, Texas and Virginia.
MARTIN: Interesting. OK. And what else did we learn from this research about who swears, when they do it and why?
GARBER: We learned a little bit about the gender distribution, which I thought was interesting. So, 66 percent of the curses came from men.
MARTIN: No comment. I have no comment.
GARBER: Yes, exactly.
GARBER: We also learned that calls that last more than 10 minutes, by far, had the most profanity used. So, basically, you can see a situation where a phone call wasn't going well and the frustration would build that frustration finally would be relieved by some well-chosen words.
MARTIN: Well, this should make us all think twice as we are expressing ourselves on these phone calls. Just take a deep breath first.
MARTIN: The Atlantic's Megan Garber. Megan, thank you so much for talking with us.
GARBER: Thank you.
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