Do you curse often? Would your friends say you swear like a sailor, or any other number of euphemisms that point out just how vulgar your speech is? Not that you should ever care what others think about you or how you speak, but having a few facts in your back pocket to prove why swearing is actually good for you can be useful for quickly shutting down the people who judge you.
Next time someone criticizes you for how you speak, you can tell them it's their loss, as those who swear often are actually proven to be better friends and have higher intelligence than those who don't.
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Everybody swears. Well, most people, anyway. There are those who choose to live a swear-free life, which is respectable as it must take a great amount of restraint, but for the most part, people swears. It's quick, curt, and to those who swear often, it can feel like a very natural response to the things that happen around us every day.
Though that may seem like a superficial fact, let us not forget that our words have impact. All of our words. Thankfully for many of us, the impact that swearing has appears to be largely positive, and even makes us better people.
Though frequent swearing is more commonly associated with traits close to anger and, for the moral purists out there, tends to be seen as rude and vulgar, it can actually foster a number of helpful qualities in a person. These qualities include even making them better friends to have around, according to research.
Teams from the Maastricht University in Netherlands, the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, and Stanford and the University of Cambridge all performed studies that determined that people who swear are less likely to lie and deceive others.
Out In The Open
The idea behind cursing being a sign of an honest soul is that it's a sincere expression of one's true feelings. People swear when they're being genuine about the emotions they're experiencing in that moment, whereas when people lie, they tend to run their words through a more strict filter that would catch and eliminate unnecessary curse words.
Swearing is a spur-of-the-moment accessory to speech that has long since been used as a means of exaggerating or amplifying a certain feeling. Not just anger, but excitement, surprise, and fear all commonly have swears interlaced in their associated speech patterns.
Their Honest Selves
Dr David Stillwell, a lecturer in Big Data Analytics at the University of Cambridge and one of the co-authors of the study that reported on the link between swearing and honesty explained how profanity can indicate truthfulness.
"Swearing is often inappropriate but it can also be evidence that someone is telling you their honest opinion. Just as they aren't filtering their language to be more palatable, they’re also not filtering their views."
Steps In Searching
The study itself was conducted in two parts. Part one was a questionnaire in which participants had to write down their favorite swear words and share which ones they used most. They were then hooked up to a lie detector and told to explain why they use these words. The lie detector, of course, determined whether or not they were telling the truth about their choices or if just wrote what they thought were acceptable answers.
The participants who wrote down more swears were less likely to be lying about their word choice.
In Person And Online
For the second part, researchers collected data from 75,000 Facebook users and studied their usage of profanity during interactions on the site, be they in comment sections or individual posts.
Those who swore more often online were also found to use pronouns such as 'I' and 'me' more often, both of which are language patterns associated with honesty.
Most people value honesty, especially in those they're close with, so this is just one point in swearing's corner for being the sign of a good person to have as a friend. It's also just one of the many benefits that have been found in those who curse often.
People who swear more often are also found to be more intelligent.
For those who choose not to swear, common profanity can be seen as something denoting a lesser vocabulary and thus lower intelligence. Surely someone who swears constantly must not know better, more articulate words to express themselves with, no?
As it turns out, not only is that false, but research seems to point towards the opposite.
People use different swears to express different things, and the swears people use in certain situations can vary depending on the person. Psychologists have determined that those who use a greater variety of swears also have a higher level of verbal fluency/language skills.
The use of swears, though often spontaneous and emotionally driven, also demonstrates strong language articulation and a greater understanding of how these words impact their speech. People who know and use more swears are better able to pick words that best fit whatever they're feeling or experiencing at a given moment. They want to make sure they're heard loud and clear—they just also want to curse while doing it.
So, those who find swearing to be crass, unprofessional, and a lesser means of expressing oneself through speech simply have a skewed perspective on swearing as a manifestation of genuine thought.
A Cold Shock
Swearing has also been proven to have health benefits.
More specifically, swearing is an effective way to relieve pain. This study, which was published in Neuroreport, involved participants putting their hands in ice cold water and keeping them there as long as possible. While their hands were submerged, they were given the option to either repeat a swear word of their choosing or a 'neutral' non-swear word.
The word chosen had drastically different effects on how long each person was able to keep their hands in the water for.
A Professional Endorsement
Those who swore were able to keep their hands underwater for an average of 47 seconds longer than those who didn't. When tested a second time, those who swore after using a neutral word the first time also reported feeling less pain when swearing compared to the word they used prior.
Leader of this study and psychologist at Keele University in England, Richard Stephens, advises people to swear when they've been hurt, saying, "Swearing is such a common response to pain that there has to be an underlying reason why we do it."
Swearing doesn't just help physical pain, but emotional pain as well. It's been shown that those who swear in reaction to negative emotions such as anger or grief are less likely to act out physically—but only to a point. The more we use a particular word in emotionally-charged situations, it begins to lose its meaning and its psychologically soothing effect on us, so using a variety or using certain words sparingly is still smart.
How swearing helps with these things remains unknown, with researchers guessing that swearing activates our fight-or-flight response, causing our heart-rate to climb and strengthening our senses against pain.
Let It Loose
So there you have it! You now have free rein to swear to your heart's content and know that you're a better person for it. Those on a moral high ground about words and their societally-imposed 'politeness' can be discarded and brushed aside, though let's be honest, you should have already been ignoring those people anyway. What right does anyone else have to dictate how much you get to swear in your own time?
That being said, let's all remember to be kind. While curse words aren't inherently rude (and they do have their benefits), some people are still sensitive to them or might take them harshly. Their experiences are just as valid as yours, and swearing being good for the mind doesn't mean you should be disregarding others' feelings for your own sense of superiority.