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How likely is it for the average person in the US, with a reasonable cultural understanding of the world to realize that Sentence 1, "I have to finish that bloody project," is loosely a UK equivalent to Sentence 2, "I have to finish that damn project"?

Are there research tools that would help answer this question?

I have surveyed one person so far -- my 19yo college student son. I asked him what Sentence 1 means, and he said, "They say that in the UK, and it means the same thing as I have to finish that f---ing project." (I guess this overstatement of the strength of bloody could indicate how the F word has been calibrated in his age group, or a misunderstanding on his part of the strength of bloody.) I then asked how he learned that, and he said, from a style of rap music that originated in the UK, called drill. (I will spare you his explanation of drill.)

The point of the question is to find out what sort of proportion of people in the US have some awareness that bloody has a special meaning in the UK (not used typically in the US).

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3 Answers 3

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I can't give any specific resources, but as an American who has some experience with British media, whether it is Harry Potter, other British movies, or various British Youtubers, I've never really seen bl--dy to be equivalent to dropping an f-bomb. I've always gotten the vibe that it was something equivalent to 'damn'. For example, your sentence 1, "I have to finish that bl--dy project." I would have interpreted that sentence as "I have to finish that damn project." Since damn is a pretty mild curse in the US, it isn't really a big deal.

Hope that gives some perspective.

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    Agree. Bloody is like damn. It is not the F word. I remind everyone that the F word is the same on both sides of the pond.
    – Lambie
    Commented Jul 22, 2022 at 22:32
  • I have edited the question so you can write bloody in full. I challenge you to find an example this century in which the word is not spelled out. Don't echo the poster's nonsense on this point. Oh, and do you usually perform statistical analysis on the basis of a sample of one?
    – David
    Commented Jul 24, 2022 at 21:56
  • @David I just meant to be respectful since the poster was censoring themself. Some people find some words worse than others Commented Jul 25, 2022 at 13:48
  • Quite understandable. I overreacted somewhat.
    – David
    Commented Jul 25, 2022 at 18:57
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The poster asks a sociological question about the comprehension of the language of one English-speaking culture by another. Within the question he expands by asking “Are there research tools that would help answer this question?”. The answer to that is that the tools to answer questions of this sort are those of statistical evaluation of people’s understanding by questionnaire, interview etc. It seems unlikely that such a survey has been conducted in this case, and asking for individual opinions on this site would, in my opinion, be off-topic.

So NO.

The problem is compounded by the fact that in its original form (I edited it) the question made an incorrect assumption about the strength of the swear word “bloody”, so any survey that shared this assumption would be invalid. What the poster needs to ascertain is the actual strength of “bloody” in current and recent British usage. The tools exist for this in analysis of printed and spoken sources, using a comparison with the appearance of stronger swear words in these media. As he has not asked that question I will not answer it, but it would be easy to show whether or not who is right on that point.

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  • Why not "It would be easy to show whether he or I am right on that point", I is wondering. :)
    – tchrist
    Commented Jul 24, 2022 at 22:22
  • @tchrist — Whoops. "Who is right" serves.
    – David
    Commented Jul 25, 2022 at 7:44
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In the US,

bloody project

sounds like you're trying to make a minced oath out of 'blood', but replacing some unknown taboo word. It is very tame sounding, and the only thing it evokes to a US speaker is in fact an informal British English, like it's something lower class like Dick Van Dyke's faux cockney accent in Mary Poppins.


As an aside, it is my impression of the college graduate in the US that they will not be exposed to everyday spoken British English any more than non-graduates, which is to say both groups will be equally exposed but only through movies. I can imagine Ron Weasley saying 'bloody hell' which is minimally uncouth to my American ears because he uses 'hell'; calling it 'bloody' sounds quaint).

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  • There are people in the states with all levels of sophistication. Dick Van Dyke did a faux cockney accent? By the way, the word bloody is more used by U speakers in BrE than non-U speakers. It's typical Brit. public school (the term for private in England) fare.
    – Lambie
    Commented Jul 22, 2022 at 22:36
  • @Lambie - What are U speakers? Commented Jul 23, 2022 at 3:36
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    @aparente001 and that reasoning is based on a single person. Your son. Weren't Monty Python Look at them, bloody Catholics, filling the bloody world up with bloody people they can't afford to bloody feed (late 60s-70s), Eddie Izzard (90s), Peter Sellers (60s-late 70s), Peter Cook and Dudley Moore (mid-late 60s) hugely popular in the US?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jul 23, 2022 at 5:54
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    This sketch aired on BBC in the 60s, British TV had much stricter censorship rules than today, yet bloody Anna Magnani passed the barriers. The idea that an American ought to be college-educated in order to understand that bloody is not an equivalent of fuck is insulting.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jul 23, 2022 at 6:07
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    If I could answer this question, I would give a data point from an American author whose 2009 novel sets a pair of green young women to move to London. As they navigate the language, they remind each other that bloody is "swearing." @Mari-LouA Bloody pilot fish! Cake or death?
    – livresque
    Commented Jul 23, 2022 at 7:20

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