Swearing's my favorite. There's something just so completely satisfying about dropping a well-timed f-bomb or mixing a few of George Carlin's infamous seven dirty words into new and exciting combinations that would make a sailor blush. I especially love swearing for no particular reason, in public places and at my dog, who gets pretty worked up when I lean in close to say something like: "Who's a good boy? Who's the best f***ing boy in the entire goddamn motherf***ing world? You are, you little asshole. Yes you are!"
He doesn't get offended by my language. He eats that shit right up, because he's a dog, and dogs don't care.
People care. A lot, it turns out. Over the years I've been directed by all kinds of people to watch my language, and though I went through phases where I tried — tried really emmer-effing hard, actually — to stem the flow of despicable vulgarities from my mouth-hole, it never stuck. Eventually I just stopped trying, and boy, am I glad I did. Not just because swearing's my favorite, but also because as it turns out, it's actually pretty f***ing good for you.
I was born into a swear-y family. I lived with my Irish grandfather for a while, and everything was "arsed" that or "feckin' Jaysus," which is sort of a daintier way of taking the Lord's name in vain; or "bollocks," which actually means testicles but is surprisingly versatile; or "cock-up" which is pretty much what it sounds like; or "sheiβe," which is German for shit and supposedly less naughty than its English counterpart. Swearing conjures up good memories for me. It's familial, and to this day I will often call up my brother and the two of us will attempt to outdo each other with words like "cocktapus," "f***tacular," and "ass cactus." It's great fun.
Anyone who says that vulgarity is a sign of low intellect is both wrong and probably the worst at parties.
In a study published in the Language Sciences Journal, researchers found that when they tasked their subjects with naming as many swear words that they could (which sounds awesome) and then directed them immediately afterward to name as many animals as they could, the subjects who knew the most swears also knew the most animals.
The fact is that foul-mouthed folks actually have a larger vocabulary at their disposal, which means that if they could be arsed, they could indeed find other ways to describe things or express themselves. But honestly, why say something like, "Wow, babe! Your discerning culinary palate always results in such exquisite dinners!" When what you really mean is: "F***in' aces, this spaghetti is absolutely f***tacular!"
Swearing isn't just for sailor-mouthed smarty-pants, either. A Keele University study learned that when people were "emotionally aroused" they became more proficient at cursing, and their swears became more inventive and expressive. The possible conclusion is that the big-time swear-y swearers are more emotionally available and better able to express what they're feeling.
And not just because it goes great with cigarettes and leather jackets, either, but because it actually works as a sort of inoculation against pain. Another Keele University study discovered that dropping an expletive was good short-term pain relief. Researcher Richard Stephens had subjects hold their hand in ice water, and then say either a naughty word or a neutral one. Once again, the vulgar plebs did far better, which led Stephens to conclude that the word triggers a heightened aggressive emotion, which in turn triggers something called "stress-induced analgesia."
So swear on, oh ye of stubbed toes and skinned knees. It's better than aspirin.
Anecdotally, I know this to be true. Flying your foul-mouthed flag high doesn't just weed out people who scowl at you because you pepper four-letter words into everything, it sends a signal to other unrefined people that they can come sit by you and swear all day long.
A study from the University of East Anglia about swearing in the workplace helped confirm how in-f***ing-valuable swearing is as a social tool. It turns out that when people in leadership positions uttered a few contextually appropriate (that is, not directed at someone in anger) uncouth oaths, and allowed their subordinates to do the same, the workplace saw an uptick in morale and solidarity.
Over on the Psychology Today website, Dr. Neel Burton gave the stamp of approval on swearing used sparingly, saying that "the health benefits of swearing include increased circulation, elevated endorphins and an overall sense of calm, control and well-being."
There's nothing more tedious than someone who tries to excuse treating people like garbage by saying something like, "I'm an asshole. I just tell it like it is. You just have to know that about me." That's just an excuse to be an asshole eternally, and I know that my generous use of profanity tends to loop me in with those people. I like to think that while I — like all humans — can engage in some garden variety assholery on occasion, it's neither a character trait nor the disease for which my swearing is a symptom.
It's pretty simple, actually. I try not to level my swears at people. They're more the adjectives, verbs and interjections of my vocabulary than they are the proper nouns (except when I'm referring to my brother, who really can be a huge cocktapus sometimes).
As long as it stays that way, I will never stop swearing.
Not now. Not f***ing ever.
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