The Science of Swearing
Swearing is generally taboo, due to the assumption that it has the power to corrupt and harm. But there is little data that demonstrates a simple word can cause harm—rather, it’s the social constructs around the word that harms people, so instead of dismissing swearing as universally wrong, it’s more useful to ask the question: why do we swear? What does it achieve? It can often be used positively, in jokes, storytelling, stress management, as a substitute for physical aggression, to express anger, joy, surprise, pain—and it’s even believed that swearing could serve an important function in relieving pain. “Swearing is such a common response to pain that there has to be an underlying reason why we do it,” says psychologist Richard Stephens of Keele University. Stephens measured how long college students could keep their hands immersed in freezing water—and one group was allowed to repeat their favourite swear word, while another group wasn’t. It was found that the swearing students reported less pain and endured an average of 40 seconds longer in the cold water. It’s thought that brain circuitry linked to emotion is involved in these physical effects of swearing—while normal language relies on the left hemisphere of the brain, expletives could rely on ancient structures deep in the right hemisphere. One of these structures is the amygdala, which can trigger a fight-or-flight response and help us become less pain-sensitive. Psychologist Steven Pinker of Harvard University agrees, commenting: “I suspect that swearing taps into a defensive reflex in which an animal that is suddenly injured or confined erupts in a furious struggle, accompanied by an angry vocalization to startle and intimidate an attacker.” So swearing might not only be a cathartic exercise—it may have evolved to save our lives.
Now, one question I have is whether or not kids should be allowed to swear. Let's face it, curse words are all over the place, lots of kids say it whether or not it's something their parents allow. They can hear these words in school, public places, or even just at home and the parents don't always have control over whether their kids say it or not. I know my parents didn't, 'cause I'd always just say the 'bad' words when they weren't around.
Most kids are restricted verbally and thus limited in how they can verbally express themselves and how they may or may not be feeling and when I'm a parent I definitely want to teach my kids about swear words, what they mean and how they should be used and I would even let my kids use them on a regular basis, but with rules:
- They can only curse at home, so I can supervise how they're using the words. If they're cursing outside the home, I'd prefer being with them so I could make sure they're not using the words in an offensive manner.
- They can't swear in a way that would hurt someone (i.e: insulting someone with a swear word, or using a swear word to put someone down. Example: Fuck you, or you're a piece of shit.)
- I'd also teach them when it's appropriate to use a curse word on someone who deserves it (i.e: fuck off, fuck you, ETC.)
I really see no point in trying to hide children from swear words when they're everywhere and they'll learn them despite your sheltering. If not from you, from someone else.
Now, for everyone, swear words might not be the same, it depends on what words you may or may not consider to be bad, and that's not always going to just be things like fuck, shit, ass, cunt, bitch, hell, or damn.
I have a list of various words that could be considered bad, and a bonus, they come with how you would say them in Norwegian, which, I don't know about you, but I think is interesting:
- Dritt - shit/shitty (usually used with other words, e.g., drittbil, “shitty car”)
- Fæn - Comes from fanden, which means “the devil.” Translates as “fuck”
- Jævla - Devlish, but means “fucking” (e.g., Din jævla idiot! “You fucking idiot!”)
- Helvete - Hell
- Drittsekk - Dirtbag
- Rasshøl - asshole
- Dust - jerk
- Dritthode - shithead
- Satan - Satan, the devil
- Pule/Knulle - To fuck
- Pokker - Literally means the devil, but translates as hell or damn
- Herregud - My God/Lord God. Not really a swearword, but some use it with caution.
- Fy fæn! - Holy fuck! / Fucking hell! / Damnit!
- Dra til helvete! - Go to hell!
- Dritt og dra! - Fuck off!
- Kyss mæ i ræva! - Kiss my ass!
- Fuck deg! - Fuck you!
- Hva pokker driver du med? - What the hell are you doing?
- Se til helvete å pell deg vekk! - Get your ass out of here!
Don't get me wrong at all, for I know that cursing is not for everyone and won't be something everyone is comfortable with, but in all honesty, I dis-like how censored these words are just because there's people who don't approve of the words, or are uncomfortable with them.
There was this woman I used to know on facebook named Donna, and she didn't like the curse word fuck and so if someone said it without realizing they said it, or said it because they were angry or frustrated or even overly excited or anxious about something, Donna would tell them they should delete the status and not say it again or she'd delete them off her friends list. It could be a status about how absolutely horrible they're feeling or how amazing something just happened to them was and all she focused on was that one little insignificant word that wasn't directed at her, or being used in a bad way, and I just don't see the point of that. I mean, you can not like it all you want, I don't care, but don't pick at people just because they use it sometimes, or even without realizing it if they use it often enough and don't let something as trivial as the f-word get in the way of a friendship. I mean, even people who weren't on her friends list could cost you a friendship with her if they just cursed on your status, which I find ridiculous because then she'd tell you that you should try to control how your friends talk. IMO, she meant well, which is fine, she didn't like curse words, but regardless, you could try to ignore it, just scroll past the status, block out that they just said it. Don't try to control someone's vocabulary or how they choose to express themselves or try to make them censor their friends just because you didn't like a word their friend used.