Curse Words - Research Into Swearing

Research Into Swearing

Swearing and cursing are modes of speech existing in all human languages. They perform certain social and psychological functions, and utilize particular linguistic and neurological mechanisms; all these are avenues of research. Functionally similar behavior can be observed in chimpanzees, and may contribute to our understanding, notes New York Times author Natalie Angier.

Angier also notes that swearing is a widespread but perhaps underappreciated anger management technique; that "men generally curse more than women, unless said women are in a sorority, and that university provosts swear more than librarians or the staff members of the university day care center"; and that linguistic research has shown that the physiological reactions of individuals who are proud of their education are similar between exposure to obscene words and exposure to bad grammar.

Profane language is by no means a recent phenomenon. The Bible sometimes uses strong language, such as mention of men who "eat their own dung, and drink their own piss" in the Authorized King James Version of 1611's close translation of Hebrew text of 2 Kings 18:27. Shakespeare is replete with vulgarisms, though many are no longer readily recognized. Even the oldest traces of human writing include swear words.

Keele University researchers Stephens, Atkins, and Kingston found that swearing relieves the effects of physical pain. Stephens said "I would advise people, if they hurt themselves, to swear". However, the overuse of swear words tends to diminish this effect. The team earned themselves the Ig Nobel Peace Prize in 2010 for the research.

In English, swears and curse words tend to be more often Germanic than Latin in terms of etymology (linguistic origin). "Shit" has a Germanic lineage, as does "fuck". The more technical alternatives are Latin in origin, such as "defecate" or "fornicate".

A team of neurologists and psychologists at the UCLA Easton Center for Alzheimer's Disease Research suggested that swearing may help diagnose certain kinds of dementia.

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