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Is Swearing Good for You? Surprising New Research
Sheds Light on Why We Use Profane Language



You accidentally bang your funny bone on the sharp edge of a countertop and out it comes … @!%$#! For some, this sudden outpouring of profanity upon being hurt (physically or emotionally) is almost instinctual and happens without real conscious thought.


Americans’ love affair with foul language may have started in ancient times … and for good reason; swearing helps us cope with both stress and pain!

And as it turns out, this may be for good reason.

A new study from Keele University in England found that swearing triggers your body’s natural “fight or flight” stress response and actually increases your tolerance to pain.

"Swearing has been around for centuries and is an almost universal human linguistic phenomenon," said author Richard Stephens of Keele University in England on "It taps into emotional brain centers and appears to arise in the right brain, whereas most language production occurs in the left cerebral hemisphere of the brain."

The study involved 64 undergraduates who were asked to submerge their hand in a tub of ice water while first repeating a swear word and, in a second experiment, repeating a common word used to describe a table.

“Swearing increased pain tolerance, increased heart rate and decreased perceived pain compared with not swearing,” the researchers wrote.

Is Swearing Hard-Wired Into Our Brains?

Linguistic researchers have pointed out that colorful language has been a part of the earliest writings, dating back some 5,000 years. And since written language stems from oral communication, it’s suspected that strong language was a part of the earliest forms of human communication.

Indeed, The New York Times points out examples of foul language among Shakespeare, Queen Elizabeth 1 and even the Bible, and says, “Researchers point out that cursing is often an amalgam of raw, spontaneous feeling and targeted, gimlet-eyed cunning.”

Swearing for Stress Relief?

Looking for a Non-Offensive Form of Stress Relief?


Too much stress makes it difficult to stay positive and expletive-free, but no worries. Staying Healthy in a Stressful World, the complete training program CD, will allow you to:

  • Identify the Three Major Sources of Stress and embark on a practice for transforming your stress into life-enhancing experiences.

  • Choose from a menu of 14 Short Mental Imagery Exercises for addressing such stressors as anger, anxiety, disappointment, guilt, regret, sadness, decision making and more.

  • Learn and practice the Physical Stress Buster series, designed for use right at your desk.

  • Use the Mind-Body Progressive Relaxation to shift gears, replenish your energy, and increase your vitality and clarity of mind.

Staying Healthy in a Stressful World Read More & Order Staying Healthy in a Stressful World Now!

Researchers maintain that swearing is often used as a form of stress relief and anger management, and may actually be an under-appreciated way to blow off steam.

For instance, researchers from the University of East Anglia in Norwich, U.K. found that "social" or "annoyance" swearing can make the workplace more pleasurable and even strengthen bonds between employees.

"Taboo language serves the needs of people for developing and maintaining solidarity and as a mechanism to cope with stress," said Yehuda Baruch, a professor of management at UAE. "Banning it could backfire."

While social swearing was found to promote a sense of "oneness" among employees, swearing out of annoyance was an effective "relief mechanism" for stress, replacing more "primitive physical aggression."

When Swearing Turns Foul

Swearing, of course, has its limits. If swearing becomes excessive or verbally abusive, it becomes a form of bullying. This, far from boosting worker morale, can lead to loss of productivity, absenteeism, depression, low morale and stress. And according to the Cuss Control Academy:

“Swearing can be rude, crude and offensive. It can reflect a bad attitude that hurts your image and your relationships. People might perceive you as an abrasive person who lacks character, maturity, intelligence, manners and emotional control.”

In fact, research has found that while 64 percent of Americans say they use the F-word (8 percent of whom use it several times a day), an Associated Press-Ipsos poll found that 74 percent of women and 60 percent of men are bothered by profanity at least some of the time.

And almost everyone agreed -- including those who do it -- that it's wrong to swear for no particular reason.

So if you find that swearing is your preferred form of stress relief, you may be offending people more often than you realize. A better way to deal with stress and keep it from becoming overwhelming is Staying Healthy in a Stressful World, the highly praised CD by Dr. Peter Reznik, one of the most respected mind/body integrative therapists of our time. The program will actually help you to embark on a practice for transforming your stress into life-enhancing experiences.

Further, if you’d really like to change your offensive language habit for the better, the Cuss Control Academy offers the following 10 tips for taming your tongue:

  1. Recognize that swearing does damage.

  2. Start by eliminating casual swearing.

  3. Think positively.

  4. Practice being patient.

  5. Cope, don't cuss.

  6. Stop complaining.

  7. Use alternative words.

  8. Make your point politely.

  9. Think of what you should have said.

  10. Work at it.

Recommended Reading

How Your Body Language Conveys Confidence, Intelligence and Trust ... or a Lack There of

How to Stay Safe When You are Confronted by an Aggressive Person


NeuroReport August 5, 2009; 20(12):1056-60

Yahoo News July 12, 2009 October 18, 2007 March 28, 2006

The New York Times September 20, 2005

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