The Art of Cursing

Damn, how often do we curse? Most of the time, cursing is embedded in our every sentence. When we drive behind a crazy driver, when we find out a cockroach is on the floor, or when we complain about school life, we swear. People, especially young adults, get so used to cursing at any informal situation. It is crazy to witness that my young cousin in 4th grade knows more swear words than me. Bad words show up so often in our dialogue that we might reflect: should we stop using them? What is so good about profanity that we keep using it? To answer this question, it’s important to rely on the context swear words are said in, rather than just focusing on their negative meanings.

Vulgar words sometimes serve as fillers in a sentence when we can’t think of anything better to replace them with. Although there are tons of curse words out there, the ways in which we use them in pop culture are similar. Just like slang, we have grown accustomed to having our ears filled up by them. Furthermore, when we say them repeatedly out loud, we just change them to fit different parts of speech. For example, we may say, “What a shit life,” when we encounter something unpleasant. Looking in a grammatical way, we’re using this word as an adjective. Or when someone says, “hey, no shit, I’m serious,” they don’t literally mean shit, but use the word to emphasize their speech. We could also insert these words between syllables, like in “un-fucking-believable” or just about anything else we use in a conversation.

Profanity is one of the best ways to express ourselves in a verbal context. Imagine communication without it. Can any other phrases boost your energy more when you work out? Is the same mood conveyed if we take "shit" away in “get my shit together” and change it to “get my things in order"? Not really. Profanities are instinctual and a kind of natural reaction which can help human beings survive under harsh conditions. There was a study done by Daniel Kahneman that required people to stick their hands in cold water for as long as they could. They repeated the experiment twice, once cursing and once saying neutral words. If we are too upset or overwhelmingly happy, we can't keep ourselves from spewing out dirty words. Science claims that swearing relieves our pain because it is shown that people who yell out, “fuck, oh shit," could withstand a longer time in the cold than those who simply used “sturdy.” In fact, dropping the f-word can sometimes help us de-stress and achieve our goals more easily.

Vulgar language can serve as a kind of social bonding, too. I still remember that when I first attended freshmen orientation in fall, the leader of the group said some swear words to break the ice. In that case, taboo language brings out laughter and increases intimacy. Between friends, speaking with irreverence builds more trusting relationships. Swearing can raise our awareness in our social group and allow us to feel comfortable joking around. It can also convey certain personality traits, such as a sense of humor, extroversion, and inclusiveness.

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Yet, swearing has such a significant emotional impact that we have to be aware whenever we say any bad words. If we do so, we are relying on the person receiving the message to correctly interpret us. Remember: it is okay to vent your feelings, but respect others first!