A cold dark room lit only by the dim moonlight peering through the window holds one lonely individual in the middle of the room on the unfeeling hardwood floor. Beaten down, battered, bruised, an out-stuck pinky toe colliding with the side of the bed frame. Soon, their towering posture bends down on one knee, until falling down, crunched in a fetal position, a hissing sound comes from their mouth. The hissing becomes the countdown of a ticking bomb, burning louder. Ffff… The clock hits midnight and dings. All of their emotions swirl around them, haunting them, and the bomb goes off in retaliation. “F-CK!” booms from the top of their lungs, repeated over and over until their lungs give out. That hard ending reverberates against the hollow walls. In deep heaves of breath, all they could focus on was the crisp conciseness of their swears, until they soothed themselves into a deep sleep. Neighbors overhearing the event swore those cusses reached the moon. Whether they said it in honest belief or admiration, they meant those words.
Though obviously overdramatic, swears can help in these types of situations as a way to release pent-up stress and anger. Swears are part of most, if not all, languages and communication worldwide. Their taboo nature explains their vulgarity and vice versa. The reason they’re profanities is that they went against the religious ideals of the time. Each swear word has its separate origins, from old English, Latin roots, and combinations of other words. For example, the origin of sh-t comes from old English words like scite (dung), scitte (diarrhea), and scitan (to defecate).
Unfortunately, old scriptures and dictionaries tend to steer clear of these types of words, so it isn’t the most thorough history, but nonetheless shows the age of these popular words that everyone uses yet are very often avoided. Well, I think it’s time to embrace our vulgarities.
This is not just a random request for the fun of it; I believe that swearing could potentially better our lives than if we were to restrict ourselves from them. Even when used as an instinct, such as when struck with the pain of an out-of-place wall, or a branch stuck in your bike chain. It’s not only a simple habit but a tactic. Saying swears have been scientifically proven to reduce pain. There was an experiment conducted by Richard Stephens where two groups of people dipped their hands in ice for as long as they could, twice. One group was allowed to swear during the experiment, while the other wasn’t. In order to keep it fair, they were only allowed to use one swear word, while the other group used one neutral word. The words were determined by asking a group of people what words they would use if a hammer fell on their thumb, while the neutral word was determined by what words they would use for a table. “F*ck” was used for the swear, while “sturdy” was the other. The group that could swear lasted on average 50% longer than the group that couldn’t. Pain is a psychological experience, not biological, so thoughts and outside circumstances can change how someone feels pain. Turns out that saying swears has an effect on the body. Increased heart rate, triggered flight-or-fight response, and emotional stimulation. All of these result in better pain tolerance.
Our swear words aren’t just used as a reaction to everything bad in our lives. Quite a few people use them in their casual conversation, me included. This isn’t just because of our sailor’s mouths. Swearing has been connected with honesty because when people use them they are not hiding their true feelings, or pulling punches. It’s also been connected with intellectualism, where knowing the most amount of swear words also meant you know the most amount of words in general, linking language with smarts. In general, cusses do in fact help heighten casual talk and walks while bettering relations with the people you swear with. There have been studies on this correlation. As stated in National Geographic, “…those that can joke with each other in ways that transgress polite speech, which includes a lot of swearing, tend to report that they trust each other more.” This is not just word of mouth but has reasoning to back it up. Such impactful language could easily offend many, but being comfortable around this specific person shows the trust between the two.
As all things taboo there will be people trying to keep it in check; to silence the swears; to conceal the cusses. That’s what being taboo means. I believe that’s perfectly acceptable because there will be people who use this as an excuse to say the vilest things. Being vulgar and being hateful are two different things. To use this to normalize slurs used to keep an entirety of people on the backend, for them to be the laughingstock and target of words propelled more like bullets than spitballs — that is not what I am advocating for. People are fine to have boundaries around swearing, so asking if they’re comfortable with it reduces that risk. People need to have boundaries, or else like in the past, slurs with heavy historical impact can be flung as if their proper place is in casual conversation. This is about common household swears, where nuns would shun you for having a pottymouth and pull your ear, not words where nuns call the authorities for hate speech and cover their ears.
All in all, I think we can all agree that swearing holds importance in our language and communication. So, in celebration, I think we all should get ourselves into an injury in front of a co-worker or colleague and swear at the top of our lungs in order to start a conversation with th- you mean that won’t work? Well, if we can’t do that simple task, I guess we’ll stick with adding a few more swears in our casual outings and yelp cusses in pride and pain.