America’s northern neighbor is generally considered to be its milder, nicer cousin. While Americans are brash and loud, as the collective wisdom tells us, Canadians are unfailingly polite. This broad generalization may have some truth to it, according to a new survey of the words used on Twitter.
Researchers from McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada (near Toronto) examined 3 million geo-tagged tweets to see how Canada’s Twitter users speak differently than those just over the border. According to Vox, they categorized the top 10 percent of words disproportionately used by Canadians and the top 10 percent used by Americans and found that Canadian Twitter reflects the stereotype: super polite. Canadians tweet lots of positive words, say “thx” and “cheers” a lot, talk about their sports teams (like the Toronto Raptors and Maple Leafs), and of course, often use "eh."
American Twitter, however, can be a little rowdier. There are disproportionately more swear words in American users’ favorite online diction. Canadians tweet about things that are “amazing” and “beautiful” and “great,” while Americans' top words are vulgar enough to be censored by the McMaster University website.
Although Americans, as a rule, probably aren’t ever going to tweet as much about hockey as Canadians do, it's unclear whether these differences only reflect national preferences. The findings could also be a result of cultural differences between urban areas with very different demographics.
The researchers studied tweets from the relatively wealthy, international city of Toronto and surrounding areas, comparing them to tweets in American Rust Belt cities like Cleveland and Detroit. Detroit Twitter users' favorite words might not necessarily reflect how people in other American cities like San Francisco, Phoenix, or Boston might talk online, and the Toronto area's language patterns might not reflect the same patterns as Calgary's. To get a fuller picture, it'd be good to see a wider selection of tweets from various geographic areas in both countries.
Regardless, let's acknowledge that while being polite is laudable, swearing can also be a sign of a well-developed vocabulary.
The results are online here.