Site icon Cindy L. Rodriguez

Swearing in YA Light Compared to Real Life

Last week, the YA world exploded with reaction to a study out of Brigham and Young University about the amount of swearing in teen novels and whether a rating system is needed. Check out the following links for more information and reactions from the American Library Association and authors Gayle Forman and Kiersten White:

http://www.nydailynews.com/blogs/pageviews/2012/05/young-adult-books-are-full-of-swearing-byu-study-says-and-characters-who-curse-are

http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2012/05/18/is-it-time-to-rate-young-adult-books-for-mature-content

http://www.yahighway.com/2012/05/field-trip-friday-may-25-2012.html

I wasn’t going to respond only because others were quicker on the draw and perfectly captured the insanity of a study based on 40 books. For every book published with a swear-word in it, I’m sure there’s one that has none, but that kind of study wouldn’t get attention. Also, there’s the issue that a book can have no foul language but deal with mature content.

I decided to add something to this conversation because I work with teens daily. I’m going to focus specifically on the swearing issue. Here’s what I know from first-hand experience:

Don’t believe me? I dare you to check a teen’s Twitter account, Facebook page, or text messaging. Go ahead, I dare you. If your teen doesn’t have any of these and/or is not the swearing kind, awesome! I mean that. Thank you. Being the verbal police all day in school and then doing it at home with my 5-year-old who likes the words “poopie” and “butt” lately is entirely exhausting.

I hope my efforts at home will prolong the inevitable–that “poopie” and “butt” will turn into “shit” and “ass.” Like the teens I teach, my daughter will probably think swearing is part of growing up. At 17, she’ll be able to drive herself to school and an after-school part-time job. Why, then, couldn’t she drop the F-bomb once in a while?

Of course, swearing does not equal adulthood, and I’m sure there are plenty of adults who don’t curse. Personally, I think overusing profanity is obnoxious, whether it comes from teens or adults. I don’t have a problem, however, with a well-placed F-bomb, or other four-letter word, in life or books.

What’s funny is that books are being called out when the language used in the YA novels I’ve read is mild compared to what I hear daily. If Brigham and Young researchers want to have some real fun, they should spend 40 days (to match the 40 books) walking around the hallways of an average American high school during passing times and start counting four-letter words.

My guess is, at the end of their little experiment, they’d call YA authors lightweights.

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