For F*ck’s Sake: Why Swearing is Good For You
I’m going to kickstart this article in an unorthodox way. I’m going to be upfront and honest with you.
This article is absolutely loaded with confirmation bias.
Confirmation Bias — the tendency to seek out information that confirms a pre-existing belief, or the point you are tying to make.
Great, now that we have all of the formalities out of the way: let’s begin.
Personally, I am an advocate of swearing. Anyone who knows me can attest. I have no chance of a career in children’s television. I’m okay with that. I don’t curse like a sailor, but if there’s something to be said, like an angry postman, I’ll probably deliver it with an expletive.
There are 171,476 words in the Oxford English dictionary, 20,000 in the average vocabulary, and yet just 5 of them set the world on fire. Better yet, they all have only four letters. And even better still, (as well observed by my good friend Jack Stanley), they also all relate to the body.
Just so we’re not mistaken the ones I’m talking about begin with C, F, S, P, and T.
A little fill-in-the-blank mental homework never hurt anyone, right?
With all those words to choose from, why is it that those five that are socially outlawed? Good question. Could it be that since they all relate to our bodies, it makes people uncomfortable, embarrassed, or ashamed to think about the connotations that they carry? Or perhaps a number of other reasons unbeknownst to me. What I do know though is that they work. And work well. A timely swear word can work wonders when delivered properly.
But is swearing bad for you?
According to the Association of Psychological Science’s Observer, a study on the effects of swearing state that they have rarely seen direct harm in over 10,000 instances of swearing. That’s a lot of swearing. Scouse dinner parties aside, the researchers suggest that swearing might have a cathartic effect, meaning that it can give us relief in a time of emotional or physical distress.
Moreover, psychologist Richard Stephens noted “Swearing is such a common response to pain that there has to be an underlying reason why we do it”. Good point Mr. Stephens. There surely must be a reason.
Further research suggests that swearing can also be an effective stress release, mitigator of pain, and even a bonding mechanism between between co-workers. Stub your toe? It’s okay to swear, you’ll actually feel less pain.
Other reasons I can come up with why swearing is beneficial include:
- Helps you to emphasise an important point
- Allows you to express inner feelings more strongly
- Makes for a funnier joke
- Can make you seem like a more honest person (think: cut the crap)
One more point before I go. I feel as though swearing is also a great buffer. What I mean by this is that using foul language is actually a verbal ventilation that can prevent a more violent physical outburst. If you weren’t swearing, you’d be swinging. Temper tantrums that we throw as kids rarely follow over into adulthood as we develop a more muddied mouth. No need to throw your toys out when a good old swear will do. Now, with that being said, I recognise that swearing can also be a severe instigator of physical outbursts. Alas, as with everything, effective use and moderation is key. Keep an open mind.
So we’ve established two things here: swearing is good, and my confirmation bias has uncovered some great research that helps prove the point I’m trying to make. Oh, and I wrote the body of this article about swearing without even using one once. You did the rest. (And I don’t count crap as a swear word).
Thanks for reading, I would love to hear your thoughts. I enjoyed this one, and I hope you did too. If there’s a scientific justification for bad language, it’s good enough for me!
This is part of a personal challenge I am undertaking to write 30 articles in 30 days to embrace a form of creative expression, whilst attempting to improve my critical thinking, writing, and communicating. My aim with any and all of my writing is to explore my own thoughts and to lay them out there for anyone to pick apart. So please, have at it.
If you’re interested, you can find all the sciencey stuff here: