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Repulsed by Blago's bleeps

People find profanity to be both common and offensive. So why do they put up with it?

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Rod Blagojevich may not realize it, but the Illinois governor has quite possibly inspired a New Year's resolution across the land: Cut the swearing. His blue streak turned many people red – despite an increased use of profanity and the (wrong) assumption that it's no big deal anymore.

Research confirms what everyone knows. Expletives are no longer deleted in everyday language. They've seeped into private and public discourse to such an extent that they seem to have permanently stained it.

Profanity on network TV during "family hour" nearly doubled from 1998 to 2007, and it's getting harsher. In music, sexually explicit words and swears have replaced the innocent crooning of classic love songs, says a study of Billboard's Top 10 hits.

In politics, the Watergate tapes drew the curtain back on Oval Office cussing, as have books about administrations since. Note to the incoming president and his staff: Beware the open microphone.

Everyone has a tale of offensive profanity, but here are some we've heard of: a dad whose middle schooler is on a swear tear because that's how his Internet gamer buddies talk; another dad who overheard his son's high school football coach cussing out a teammate; a corporate lawyer mom who complains that the swearing is worst among senior executives – and who admits she joins in because that's the culture.

The excuses for gutter talk are as tiresome as the words: It makes kids look tougher; it helps adults exert power; it makes a point. Some research shows it's "good for you" as a steam-venter. One study even maintains it's a company morale builder (to quote humorist Dave Barry, we're not making this up).


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