May 5th, 2017 .

It’s Good For You, I Swear It

Pat Morden

 

Today, I saw a meme on Facebook that made me smile.

It shows two chimpanzees, apparently deep in conversation. One (presumably male) is saying, “You know, swearing is unattractive.” The other (I’m guessing it’s a female) replies, “Well, I’m not attractive anyway, so f–k off.”

As a word nerd, the four-letter ones have always fascinated me.

I grew up in a household where swearing was tacitly forbidden. As a young mother, I used a few mildly naughty words when frustrated. But as time went on, I found myself using that chimp lady’s word – once an absolute taboo in polite company — occasionally.

And I’m not the only one. Judging by popular media, swearing is pretty common in the 21st century. Check out this Mother’s Day ad from the clever people at Kraft Dinner: https://www.popsugar.com/moms/Alternative-Curse-Words-Moms-Who-Swear-43499465

Profanity has a neurological basis. It is not controlled from the brain’s language centre, but from the part of the brain involved in processing emotions. Some patients with damage to their language centre can still curse fluently.

It turns out that’s not such a bad thing. Here are a few benefits of turning the air blue:

  • Swearing can give us a greater sense of power and control over a bad situation. It’s a harmless way to relieve feelings without resorting to violence.
  • Swearing has been shown to increase the effectiveness and persuasiveness of a message, especially when it is a positive surprise. Remember that President Trump talked about “bombing the h—ll out of ISIS” at many campaign stops, and was applauded for his authenticity.
  • Swearing can increase tolerance to pain. Students who repeated a curse word were able to keep their hands in a bucket of ice water longer than those who uttered a neutral word.
  • Swearing can create a sense of solidarity, helping to bond members of a group and ease tensions
  • The tendency to swear is correlated with verbal fluency, and is not the result of a deficient vocabulary.
  • People who swear regularly have been shown to lie less than those who don’t.
  • Swearing increases circulation, elevates endorphins, and leads to an overall sense of calm and well-being.

So, next time your computer freezes, the contractor doesn’t turn up as promised, or you stub your toe, give yourself permission to use some colorful words. There, feels better, doesn’t it?

 

 

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