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Profanity: How Often Do People Use It
and Can It Be Beneficial?

In the United States, we're no strangers to profanity -- in the home, on the television and even in the workplace, foul language has become quite commonplace.

But that does not mean we like it. A recent 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.

Still, 74 percent of Americans surveyed said they hear profanity in public frequently or occasionally. Another two-thirds believe that foul language is more common than it was 20 years ago.

the f word

Sixty-four percent of Americans say they do, in fact, use the "F-word."

Just how often does the average American swear? The poll found that 64 percent of people use the F-word (8 percent of which use it several times a day).

So what, if anything, is wrong with some occasional use of "colorful" language? Well, for starters people who curse when it's not necessary are often considered less intelligent and less credible than those who do not. Further, according to the Cuss Control Academy in Lake Forest, IL, swearing:

  • Makes you unpleasant to be with

  • Endangers your relationships

  • Reduces the respect people have for you

  • Discloses a lack of character

  • Shows you don't have control

  • Sets a bad example

  • Has lost its effectiveness

  • Lacks imagination

  • Contributes to the decline of civility

  • Represents the dumbing down of America

  • Offends more people than you think

  • Is abrasive, lazy language

"You probably swear because it is easy, fun, candid, emphatic, expressive, breaks rules, and somehow partially reduces anger and pain," says the Cuss Control Academy. "But the negatives outweigh the positives. You really don't win an argument by swearing. You don't prove that you are smart or articulate. You don't earn respect or admiration. You don't motivate, you intimidate. Swearing doesn't get you hired, promoted, or romantically connected."

Workers who swear

Workers who swear together, stay together, according to new research from the UK.

As conventional thinking would have it, profanity is indeed something that should be limited in your life, at the very least to preserve your reputation and set a good example for your children.

However, new research has revealed a surprising turn of events.

Can Swearing be a Good Thing?

According to researchers from the University of East Anglia in Norwich, U.K., absolutely.

They 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."

Of course, even social swearing 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.

To Swear or Not to Swear?

It can be socially acceptable to swear when you're amongst friends who also swear, but outside of such a safe environment, using profanity casually is likely to offend someone within earshot.

" ... Be aware of when and where you swear," notes the Cuss Control Academy. "Control it, tame it, time it. Or, to be on the safe side, stop using it altogether."

Recommended Reading

The Top Seven Signs that Someone is Lying to You

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


Cuss Control Academy October 18, 2007 March 28, 2006

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