Wellbeing

Apparently If You Want To Make Friends, You Should Swear At Them

Swearing is good for you – and not just for the times when you stub your toe or can’t find your phone. In fact, it might even be a key factor in forming meaningful relationships.

We’re taught from a very young age that swearing is wrong; it’s often labelled rude, and often a sign of bad character or poor parenting. But profanity is more acceptable now more than ever, with many people unconcerned about the so-called “dangers” of dropping a few f-bombs.

Just look at pop culture. Martin Scorcese’s Wolf of Wall Street broke the Guinness Book Record for the most swearing in one film – the f-word was used 506 times, at an average of 2.81 times per minute – and the Academy decided to give that film a Oscar. So clearly we’re not so phased by swears anymore. They might even be serving a particular social function.

Profanity has many social functions, the most contentious of which is the fact that it apparently brings us together. There’s an intimacy to swearing, probably because we’ve known from a young age that we’re not supposed to do it.

Michael Adams, author of In Praise of Profanity, says so-called “bad words” are “unexpectedly useful in fostering human relations because they carry risk… We like to get away with things and sometimes we do so with like-minded people.” Adams argues that we’ve oversimplified profanity by labelling it as taboo. He believes swearing is a valuable, even essential, addition to communication, and an element of style.

Science says there might even be a link between profanity and honesty. A study published in Social Psychological and Personality Science (which was oh-so perfectly titled Frankly, We Do Give A Damn: The Relationship Between Profanity and Honesty) used three experiments to determine a link.

The first saw 276 participants rate their penchant for honesty and swearing; the second analysed the status updates of 73,789 Facebook users who used the myPersonality app; and the third measured US state data to determine the presence of independent ethics commissions and judicial accountability. Basically, they checked the sweariest states against those with fines or penalties in place for swearing in public (which is apparently a thing here in Australia too).

The results found a correlated link between profanity and honesty. According to the researchers, “profanity was associated with less lying and deception at the individual level, and with higher integrity at the society level.” So if you’re one to tell it like it is, it’s likely you’re a fan of peppering your conversations with the odd swear.

As if we needed any more convincing, studies have also found swearing is often used as a coping mechanism, and can actually help us feel more resilient. Hell yes.

[h/t Quartz, Science of Us, Time]