The Surprising Benefits Of Swearing

Okay, so maybe it's not a smart idea to drop F-bombs when the kids are around. But when you're on your own — go for it! Research has actually shown that swearing has some surprising benefits for your physical, emotional, and social health.

Humans have been cursing just about as long as they've been speaking. Even Shakespeare, that illustrious wordsmith, peppered his plays with naughty words, although they sounded better coming from him. (Among the classic saucy phrases, per The Independent: "Bull's pizzle," "base dunghill villain," "son and heir of a mongrel bitch," and "whoreson cullionly barber-monger.") Why do we do it? Swearing gets our point across more quickly and strongly than more polite words, says psychologist Timothy Jay (via Time). The words themselves are usually based on socially forbidden topics, such as bodily functions, genitalia, and religion.

Contrary to Mom's warning that only stupid people curse "because they don't know any better words," Dr. Jay has found that's not the case. One of his studies on swearing (via Science Direct) asked volunteers to spend one minute listing words beginning with F, A, and S, then to list as many swear words as they could. The more well-educated volunteers were able to come up with more words in both categories.

Cursing can make you hurt less

Don't feel guilty about letting a swear word fly when you stub your toe on the coffee table. Scientists have found that uttering oaths triggers the body's "fight or flight" response to a threat. As your body prepares itself to deal with the stress by raising your pulse and breathing rates, it also releases an "analgesic response" which makes you more tolerant to pain (via CNN). However, it's best not to overdo it; researchers also note that people who don't normally cuss a lot feel less pain than folks who swear all the time.

When someone jaywalks in front of your car, you might be doing yourself a favor if you respond with an obscenity. Researchers in Romania studied individuals' emotional states before and after imagining certain annoying traffic situations. They discovered that in one particular circumstance — being forced to stop for a pedestrian crossing the street illegally — cursing released anger and made the volunteers feel calmer afterward. 

Do you find that you're more potty-mouthed among friends? That's a good sign, too. According to Psychology Today, being able to curse freely around someone is a sign of bonding and intimacy. When you're venting about something to a pal, using swear words humorously can also help you gain perspective on the situation. That's something to give a damn about!