The benefits of swearing: I swear that cursing is good for you
By Dan McLaughlin
Swearing both shocks and amuses, depending on the audience, but negative words can have a positive effect on the profanity performer.
On being told that swearing shows a lack of vocabulary, Scottish comedian Billy Connolly dismissed it: "Rubbish. I know thousands of words but I still prefer f--k."
The Big Yin was right to ridicule the claim that swearing limits the lexis, with studies showing that those with foul mouths are more articulate and have a larger vocabulary than their peers. A recent study proved that taboo fluency (posh way of describing swear words - or cuss words, for the Americans) signals verbal fluency.
It concluded: "Speakers who use taboo words understand their general expressive content as well as nuanced distinctions that must be drawn to use slurs appropriately.
"The ability to make nuanced distinctions indicates the presence of more rather than less linguistic knowledge."
Swearing can provide a pain relief for the potty-mouthed, activating the 'fight or flight' response. According to Psychology Today, it can lead to a surge of adrenaline and a corresponding analgesic effect. This theory has been proven by Richard Stephens from Keele University who found that people who swear are able to hold their hands in ice-water for twice as long as their pre-watershed friends.
The use of expletives is universal, and it can be a great ice-breaker and a way for people to bond. Michael Adams, author of In Praise of Profanity, argues that there is an "intimacy to cursing", which serves as a useful social function. By using a forbidden word, it shows others that we are comfortable and even slightly vulnerable around them.
Linguistics lecturer Monika Bednarek also believes they can help form relationships with others.
She said: “In addition to the psychological function of swearing, we mustn’t forget its social functions.
"Swearing is important for creating close relationships, friendship or intimacy with others, and bonds can be formed around it.”
The next time you are scolded for a liberal sprinkling of swear words in your vocabulary, reassure the offended listener that you are only doing it for the good of yourself and the people around you. If they continue to persist, a universal "f--k off" is rather effective, too.