If you were a young kid in the early ’90s or before that, you may be pretty cognizant of the level of no-no that swearing was. It was a pretty big deal. Parents would earmuff their kids around thoughtless adults or movies rated R for language much more than we see today. Perhaps it was the pandemic, or maybe it’s the age of the internet—we know there is only so much we can shield our kids from when they have the universe at their fingertips and in their pocket.
Some words just tumble out of the mouth much easier than others, especially in moments of certain, shall we say, passion. Germanic sounds like “fuck” and “shit” and French or Latin words like “piss” and “damn” just really satisfy a need when the moment strikes. All the sweet euphemisms in the world like “fudge” or “shoot” simply will not get the job done, and we all know it. We’re societally conditioned to feel that way and there is no turning back. But is it really so bad?
Science says maybe not. Intriguingly, a few crisp consonants can provide a little level of relief from pain. Of course, that pain is the physical pain experienced by the person swearing. Swear words can also inflict pain if you use them at someone, which is where compassion and self-awareness come in. What we’re talking about is swearing socially, bringing it into daily language and diluting a little bit of the shock factor in all kinds of social environments, like work, parties, or run-ins with an acquaintance or old friend.
Profanity has also been linked to honesty. Studies show that we are displaying our most genuine emotions when swear words come into play. Perhaps it’s because we are expressing our true feelings of passion around a subject when swear words enter the context. It may be easy to lie for some people, but it’s more challenging to convincingly feign passion.
Another reason swearing may be on the rise is feminism doing away with tradition. While it may have seemed “unladylike” to swear in decades past, quite frankly, we’re done with that shit. It can also be seen as an act of defiance against the patriarchy; a contrast to what they expect from women. The crass colloquialism levels the playing field in sports but also in romantic, platonic, and professional relationships, when appropriate.
And when is it appropriate? That’s a more nuanced question with an answer no one likes: it depends. Swearing can be a way to build trust in new friendships or professional relationships as well. It showcases that we’ve let our guard down just enough, relaying that we trust the other/trust they won’t judge us and showing that we feel equal to them. It’s really about utilizing your best judgement, social awareness, and observation skills to determine when it is an OK time to let an F-bomb slip. Our best advice? Use swear words as sparingly as possible when directed at someone or describing someone. Swearing can be powerful, but mean-spirited gossip is ugly on everyone.
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