If you enjoy a strongly uttered four-letter word every now and again, you've definitely heard it. It probably came from someone at least 20 years your senior and was accompanied by a furrowed brow and/or wagging finger:
"Swearing is the sign of a weak mind."
"Cussing is the sign of a poor vocabulary."
"Profanity is a sign of limited intelligence."
Maybe you felt guilty and agreed with them, or maybe you gave them a silent middle-finger with your mind. Regardless of how you reacted, science is here to tell us (again) that they were wrong.
Exciting new research recently published in the journal Language Sciences confirms what f-bomb droppers have always known in their hearts: Swearing isn't a mental crutch--it's a sign of verbal intelligence.
The study, a joint effort of psychologists at Marist College and the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, found that people who swear more may actually have stronger language skills overall than those who don't.
They reached this conclusion by pitting two popular theories against each other:
A folk assumption about colloquial speech is that taboo words are used because speakers cannot find better words with which to express themselves: because speakers lack vocabulary. A competing possibility is that fluency is fluency regardless of subject matter—that there is no reason to propose a difference in lexicon size and ease of access for taboo as opposed to emotionally neutral words.To test which theory was correct, researchers gave study participants 60 seconds to rattle off as many swear words as they could. Then, they asked them to do the same with a more benign subject, such as animal names. (In social science this is known as the Controlled Oral Word Association Test.)
If old-fashioned swear haters are right, participants fluent in swearing should have had trouble coming up with the neutral words but that's exactly the opposite of what happened.
Instead, those who listed the most curse words were consistently able to list the most words in other associative trials—showing an undeniable connection between swearing skills and a larger overall vocabulary.
Fucking awesome, right? It gets better.
Because the researchers separated the types of swear words listed into distinct categories (like slurs, general pejoratives, sexual terms, etc) they could also determine that "speakers who use taboo words understand their general expressive content as well as nuanced distinctions that must be drawn to use slurs appropriately."
In normal words, this means that swearing is actually a sign of verbal intelligence, rather than linguistic deficiency. Which is a huge professional advantage, not to mention a life skill that many people lack.
So if you want to hurl a few swears at the sky every now and then, go ahead. It just means you're better than everyone else.
I'm not even shitting you, bro.
thanks Tara Tiger Brown!