For many of us, four-letter words are a part of our everyday lives, and without the emphasis they give, stuff just doesn’t sound the same. Imagine if the last words Rhett Butler uttered to Scarlett O’Hara at the end of Gone With the Wind were “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a hoot.” So different, right? There are a lot of places where you might learn your first bad word — perhaps from an older kid at school or etched into the wall of a public bathroom, or maybe even from your own parents. In an article published in the Association of Psychological Sciences Observer, psychologists Timothy Jay and Kristin Janschewitz found that most kids learn their first curse word at age two and “becomes adult-like by ages 11 or 12. By the time children enter school, they have a working vocabulary of 30-40 offensive words.”
The researchers also concluded that swearing might not be as bad as we previously thought. The pair studied and recorded over 10,000 instances of public swearing by both children and adults and found that, at least in public occurrences of swearing, taboo language rarely led to adverse consequences. In fact, swearing can actually help in many aspects of our lives. Some of the findings from the article are certainly verrrrrrry interesting.
1. Raises pain tolerance: Cursing can actually raise your pain tolerance. A study published in the NeuroReport in 2000 found that when subjects stuck their hands into icy cold water and either repeated a curse word or a non-curse word, those who said something naughty actually had higher heart rates and lower perceived pain.
2. Makes people laugh: C’mon guys, you know this one is true. For some reason, when you throw in an obscenity or two when you’re telling an anecdote, it just makes your tale funnier. But okay, if you need scientific proof, in his book Why We Curse, Dr. Jay proposes that human behavior is often dictated by something called the Neuro-Psycho-Social Theory: that’s “neurological control, psychological restraints, and socio-cultural restrictions.” Placed at the right time in conversation, a “novel and clever dirty joke is the product of all three spheres,” he writes. Basically what that means is when someone swears in public and gets a laugh, it’s often because they’re doing something pretty socially smart.
3. Provides stress management: Dr. Jay and Dr. Janschewitz also found that Type-A people are more prone to swearing and that using profanity can actually help relieve stress. There’s actually a term for this phenomenon, “lalochezia” and, as defined by The American Heritage Medical Dictionary, it means “emotional relief gained by using indecent or vulgar language.” Whoa. Next time someone tries to curb your language, throw this word at them.
4. Replaces physical aggression: We often correlate swearing with violence, but studies show that swearing can often substitute the physical. Dr. Jay also writes in his book, “One positive aspect of cursing is that it replaces more primitive physical aggression. Most would agree that it is better to yell at people than to hit them on the head.” Yeah, that sounds about right.
5. Helps you relate to others: According to psychologist Richard Stephens in his book Black Sheep: The Hidden Benefits of Being Bad, swearing can actually “reinforce close bonds between people.” Rather than being “rude and alienating,” however, potty-mouthing can actually “be a shared code and a sign of belonging.” Solidarity, dammit.
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(Photos via New Line Cinema + Getty)