Choosing the right words to truly convey our feelings, especially when we're mad, annoyed, or stressed, can be tough. In these situations, using swear words can be quite useful in expressing ourselves effectively and letting out built-up emotions.
A lot of us grow up learning not to use swear words because they're seen as rude or not okay. But science suggests that folks who cuss might actually be smarter and make better pals.
People Who Swear Make Better Friends
Even though swearing has usually been linked to anger and being rough, a group of researchers from Maastricht University in the Netherlands, the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, along with Stanford and the University of Cambridge found that folks who use curse words are less likely to be connected with lying and deceit.
Since swearing is commonly a way to express raw emotions and sincerity, people who swear frequently tend to give off an impression of being more honest and real, at least to some extent. Dr. David Stillwell, who teaches Big Data Analytics at the University of Cambridge and is one of the authors of the paper, clarifies that the connection between dishonesty and profanity is somewhat intricate.
"Swearing is often inappropriate but it can also be evidence that someone is telling you their honest opinion," he says. "Just as they aren't filtering their language to be more palatable, they're also not filtering their views."
The research went down in two steps. First off, 276 folks filled out a survey where they had to jot down their go-to curse words and mark the ones they throw around the most. They had to rate why they use these words, and later, they hopped on a lie detector to check if they were spilling the real deal or just jotting down what they thought was cool.
Folks who penned down more curse words were less likely to be fibbing.
In the next phase of the study, the researchers gathered info from 75,000 Facebook users, keeping tabs on how much they cursed during their online social chats. Turns out, folks who dropped more swear words were also more inclined to use words like "I" or "me," which are speech habits linked to being upfront and honest.
Most folks appreciate honesty in a friend. So, if those who cuss more tend to be more truthful, chances are they make better pals too.
People Who Swear are Possibly More Intelligent
People often think that using foul language means the speaker doesn't have a good vocabulary and might be less intelligent. But science is actually saying the opposite.
Folks swear for various reasons—whether it's for linguistic flair, expressing emotions, getting a laugh, or sometimes, to be downright mean. Psychologists discovered that those who can come up with a broader range of curse words also tend to have better verbal skills, meaning they're pretty good with words.
This shows that people who are good with words also know how to use curse words to get their point across more effectively.
Swearing can be Good for You
A study in Neuroreport suggested that using swear words might be a good way to ease pain.
Psychologists had folks stick their hands in freezing water and see how long they could handle it. While they were enduring the chilly water, they could either say a swear word or pick a "neutral" word.
The volunteers managed to endure the water for about 47 seconds longer on average when they used swear words, and they said the pain felt less compared to when they used a non-swearing word.
Richard Stephens, a psychologist at Keele University in England and the head of the study, suggests that if you hurt yourself, it's okay to let out a swear word.
"Swearing is such a common response to pain that there has to be an underlying reason why we do it," he explained."
Why swearing helps ease pain is not entirely clear. It might be that swearing actually triggers the part of our brains that kickstarts the fight-or-flight response, making our heart rate go up and making us less sensitive to pain.
Using swear words can also ease emotional pain and reduce the likelihood of acting out physically. The tricky part, though, is that the more we swear, the less emotional power our words carry. Once the emotion is drained from the word, it doesn't have the same calming effect, so it's important to choose our words carefully.
The Effect of Swearing Depends on your Experience
The emotional punch of swearing varies from person to person, based on their own experiences and the situation in which the word was used. How suitable swearing is depends on things like the connection between the speaker and the listener, the social setting, and of course, the specific word that was used.
In their research titled "The Pragmatics of Swearing," Timothy Jay and Kristin Janschewitz had college students, both native English speakers and non-native English speakers, assess how offensive swear words were and the likelihood of hypothetical situations involving these words.
Native speakers found offensiveness to be age-dependent, while for non-native speakers, it hinged on their experience with the English language. The data they gathered showed that figuring out when, where, and with whom swear words are okay takes time for people to grasp.
Swearing isn't All Bad
All this research is pointing to the idea that swearing is a really important part of language that helps us grasp the connection between what we say and how we act.
Several factors play a role in how smart, happy, healthy, or composed someone is, but it seems that those who express their frustration with a swear word more frequently usually have a strong command of language and are less likely to turn to violence when they get upset or annoyed.
Sure, there are still plenty of times when swearing is just not right, but if you're the kind of person who drops a few more curse words than others, it might actually be doing you some good, and making you a better friend too.