Contrary to popular belief, having a foul mouth doesn’t mean you’re an idiot. In fact, cursing — and lots of it — actually indicates higher intelligence and a wide vocabulary.
A small study conducted by two psychologists has concluded that people who swear, and creatively, are smarter than those who don’t. They also have greater language fluency, Science Alert reported.
“It is a common assumption that people who swear frequently are lazy (or) do not have an adequate vocabulary,” said psychologists Kristin Jay and Timothy Jay in their study, according to the New York Daily News.
They started with the opposite assumption — that people who swear a lot actually have a better vocabulary — and recruited a group of foul-mouthed young people to test their hypothesis, Mic added.
In the first experiment, the researchers asked 43 people, 30 of them women, between the ages of 18 and 22 to spit out as many swear or taboo words as they could in 60 seconds. Afterward, they were asked to rattle off as many animal names as they could, as a marker of their overall vocabulary.
In the second experiment, a different group of 49 people, 34 of them women, in the same age group were asked to write down their curse words and animal names. This time, they only listed animals whose names started with the letter “a.”
Both groups also completed FAS tasks, or verbal fluency tests.
People who shocked researchers with the most curse words were also the ones who named the most animals. Any intelligible combination of curse words was acceptable. Some of the more creative offerings: “a** pirate,” c** dumpster,” and “s**tbag.”
Though one would think that a person who regularly uses the term “a** pirate” to be a bit of a moron, incapable of coming up with something more intelligent or eloquent to say, that criticism would be very, very wrong, the researchers wrote.
“Unfortunately, when it comes to taboo language, it is a common assumption that people who swear frequently are lazy, do not have an adequate vocabulary, lack education or simply cannot control themselves. The overall finding of this set of studies, that taboo fluency is positively correlated with other measures of verbal fluency, undermines the [normal] view of swearing.”
That’s because language is a complicated endeavor and cursing, since it can be quite creative, takes a lot of intelligence to navigate.
Researchers didn’t find a link between cursing and language poverty. What they found was that the ability to utter taboo words indicated “healthy verbal abilities.” And cursing wasn’t used by potty mouths to cover up their language deficiencies, either.
“Speakers who use taboo words understand their general expressive content as well as nuanced distinctions that must be drawn to use slurs appropriately. The ability to make nuanced distinctions indicates the presence of more rather than less linguistic knowledge.”
Also interesting — the cursing skills of men and women were virtually identical, proving the ladies can swear like a sailor as well as the men.
Moreover, people who curse know the difference between an “appropriate” curse word (“s**t,” “a**”) and an “inappropriate” one, like a racial slur. Slurs were actually quite uncommon in participants’ bad words list. But curse words related to sex often made an appearance.
This study, though small and in need of corroboration, should serve as vindication for those of us who are criticized for being vulgar. Other studies have been published that show profanity is useful, and not inherently bad. It can help people get through tough times and indicates that they’ll perform better on an SAT.
So curse away! Just not in church, or in a job interview, or at your grandmother’s house.
Warning: There are curse words in this video.