- the occasional blog of André Hansson

The Use of Profanity in Serious Literature

Culture and EntertainmentPosted by André Hansson Fri, May 23, 2014 16:09:15

The use of profanity in literature remains controversial. Some people don’t like it and don’t want to see it no matter what the circumstance. Others believe the use of the four letter words can bring gritty reality and edge to a text. After all, real people say f*ck and other things all the time. It’s everywhere in movies. My own opinon is that if an author cleans up the language too much it can sometimes sound dull and contrived. Real people swear, that’s a fact. But can it be overused? Judge for yourself.

I compiled a list of books that are generally considered to be literary fiction and did a search for the word “f*ck”. Not surprisingly, the older the book the less it is used. The type of story also matters, of course, but it shows clearly that many works of revered fiction contains profanity to great effect.


1. F. Scott Fitzgerald - The Great Gatsby - 0 times

2. Truman Capote - Breakfast at Tiffanys - 1 time

3. JD Salinger - The Catcher in the Rye - 5 times

4. Brett Easton Ellis - Less Than Zero - 58 times

5. Hunter S. Thompson - Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas - 84 times

6. Nick Hornby - High Fidelity - 98 times

7. Charles Bukowski - Women - a whopping 336 times

- That’s more than 1 f*ck per page

8. Richard Blandford - Hound Dog - 304 times

- Again, more than 1 f*ck per page.

In my own novel, The Jacket Trick, the f-word occurs a modest 106 times.

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