To swear or not to swear? You were probably drilled during childhood to never say the forbidden words on pain of death and no dessert. But as many of you know, barring a behavior only invites curiosity. If swearing is bad, why do all your friends at school curse anyway? Why do people in movies and books say the forbidden words too? And what do you do when your parents decide you are “mature” enough and begin blaspheming at every opportune moment?
Despite stigma in our society surrounding swearing, research has found that we utter around 80 to 90 curse words every day. So what should we do? Is it worth trying to reduce cursing, or should we just step back and let the feelings flow?
The word “profane” means “before the temple”. As languages flourished, each developed special taboo words that were chosen for being unfashionably rude. Such words generally fell into several subcategories: sexual innuendos (like the f-word and the word derived from “Richard”), blasphemous words (like the d- and h-word), animal references (like the a-word), ancestral allusions (like the word commonly used to describe a sword in Dungeons and Dragons), and words used to substitute for the words above (like “shoot” and “frick”). Do not know what I am talking about? I applaud your innocence and advise you consult a trustworthy friend, the Reddit forums, or South Park.
So why, despite much pressure from family and teachers to do otherwise, do teenagers curse? In many cases, merely saying a forbidden word triggers the fight-or-flight response, delivering a rush of adrenaline and dopamine. Courtesy of the “Mythbusters”, cursing has been found to distract the brain and reduce pain. Cussing can indicate maturity and toughness; swearing is a simple, if sometimes crude, way to magnify your emotions. However, there is no doubt that swear words affect us.
So, should it be okay to curse at school? On one hand, swearing has been found to be a relatively harmless coping mechanism used to relieve stress, anxiety, and anger. Maybe if schools want us to curse less, they should assign less homework, reduce the importance of grades, and stop making it a competition. Swearing is kind of like using the horn on your car, as said by psychologist Timothy Jay. And oddly enough, cursing can help reduce violence in a convoluted sense. When chimpanzees were trained the sign language for “poop,” they were found to throw less feces at each other, opting to literally “let the fingers do the talking”.
But on the other hand, remember that words hurt more than any stick or stone. Using coarse language can give others a bad impression of you, and it can harm your relationships with others. Cursing constantly can lead to bad habits, which can harm your future. What happens if you curse without thinking during an interview or a meeting? Remember that curse words bear power, and power can easily be abused.
What about substitute words like “shoot” and “frick”? I, as do many of you readers, abuse them plentifully, so I really should not judge. However, they still represent the word they were modeled after. If you go tell someone to “go frick themselves,” they probably know exactly what you meant.
I believe there is no right answer to the issue of swearing, but I do suggest taking steps to engage in healthier blasphemy. Be considerate to other people who are uncomfortable with you swearing. And, as always, do not hurt others for the sake of hurting.