TORONTO – It gets dropped without warning and can strike anywhere in the world, laying waste to rational arguments and leaving a trail of offended sensibilities in its wake.
But the linguistic threats posed by the f-bomb on Twitter pale in comparison to its entertainment value, according to a Canadian computer science student who has made it his mission to track the global prevalence of this word-based weapon on the social networking site.
Martin Gingras’s fascination with the popular profanity prompted him to create fbomb.co, a website that tracks the use of the word in real time.
By combining features from two of the web’s most widely used applications — Google Maps and Twitter — the site allows readers to observe where in the world f-bombs are falling and in exactly what context they are being used.
Gingras himself does not track the data for geographical trends, nor does he expect the site to be much more than a source of entertainment to its readers.
Still, the 22-year-old Carleton University student said his personal distaste for swearing may have given his otherwise light-hearted venture a bit of an agenda after all.
“It’s more of an entertainment thing, but once people are on it, hopefully they read through a couple and realize how ridiculous it sounds,” the Waterloo, Ont., native said in a telephone interview from Ottawa.
The contents do indeed run the gamut, as Twitter users around the world offer their profanity-tinged takes on everything from current affairs to personal problems.
While some tweets used the word in its verb form and contained images not suitable for the average workplace, most users used the word to emphasize the issues that absorbed them in the moment.
Users dropped their f-bombs on environmental practices, deployed their linguistic weapons to wage war on mother nature and sometimes simply delved into their verbal armoury to make their words more potent.
“Got nothing planned until 21st December and I f***ing hate it,” wrote one Twitter user.
“It’s so f***ing cold outside,” wrote another.
Gingras said the impetus for the site came from a lunch-time conversation with a few friends, all of whom were lamenting the effect profanity could have on rational conversation.
The emotional emphasis that comes through in most tweets, he said, raises questions about the role feelings can play in an otherwise sound argument.
“It wasn’t so much about swearing in general, it was about how you structure an argument and what makes an argument a strong argument versus what would undermine an argument,” he said. “Whether getting emotionally attached in an argument would undermine it. If you’re really angry is it OK to swear?”
Judging by the feedback the site has received, Gingras said people don’t seem to take offence. Readers have contacted him to praise the site for its entertainment value or to request other features, such as the ability to filter by location, he said.
Ultimately, Gingras hopes the f-bomb site will be just one of the weapons in his arsenal as he storms the job market after completing his computer science degree.
“I’m currently in the interview process with some companies and I definitely think the success of the site has helped me with those,” he said.
—Michelle McQuigge and Abdul Latheef