Next time someone attempts to shame you for ‘swearing like a sailor,’ thank them — yes, really — then, direct that person to the latest study linking your cursing to — yes, really — honesty.
People who cuss, a newer two-part study swears, tend toward honesty — and the less censorship of vulgarities a person employs, the more honest they are, researchers from the Universities of Hong Kong, Stanford, Cambridge, and Maastricht found.
Any parents out there still rushing for the soap upon hearing profanities spewed from the mouths of their babes might want to reconsider, knowing their potty-mouthed progeny are in actuality following the time-honored adage, honesty is the best policy — even if that honesty rankles traditional etiquette.
Honest folk frequently swear to express their feelings, not to insult or hurt others. The liberal peppering of expletives correlates with a high degree of sincerity — particularly in how swearers portray themselves to others.
Liars, on the other hand, generally prefer pronouns in the third-person and negative speech — a sharp contrast to their blasphemous peers.
“The consistent findings across the studies suggest that the positive relation between profanity and honesty is robust, and that the relationship found at the individual level indeed translates to the society level,” the researchers write.
For the first part of the study, researchers queried 276 willing participants about their cussing habits and levels of candor in certain situations. Additionally, they analyzed statuses and posts of some 73,000 Facebook users, focusing on their cursing and, of course, honesty.
Then, for the second facet, the same researchers examined previously-compiled data to compare individual U.S. states’ level of integrity with how often their inhabitants swear.
Results were the same — no matter which avenue the analysts pursued — use of profanities was inextricably linked to honesty.
An excess of expletives isn’t indicative only of honesty, but of eloquence: researchers previously found a capaciously profane vocabulary bespeaks generally larger vocabulary, overall.
Professor of Psychology, Dr. Timothy Jay, of the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts studied “taboo words,” and discovered that — when it comes to the size of one’s … vocabulary — “fluency is fluency.”
“Taboo or ‘swear word’ fluency is positively correlated with overall verbal fluency,” Jay, the study’s author, told Medical Daily. “The more words you generated in one category meant the more words you generated in another category, orally and verbally.”
Jay sought to prove habitual semantic blasphemers do not curse or slur for lack of education or a dearth of ‘more appropriate’ terminology — those who swear, he posited, could not be categorized as coming from a lower socio-economic status as past research implied.
And he was right.
“A folk assumption about colloquial speech is that taboo words are used because speakers cannot find better words with which to express themselves: because speakers lack vocabulary,” the psychologist wrote for the study abstract.
“Overall the findings suggest that, with the exception of female-sex-related slurs, taboo expressives and general pejoratives comprise the core of the category of taboo words while slurs tend to occupy the periphery, and the ability to generate taboo language is not an index of overall language poverty.”
Those who cuss aren’t at a loss for words. Indeed, acuity with obscenities is a sure sign the speaker is an albeit profane wordsmith — a finding which seems starkly apparent, given the astonishing flexibility of the F-word, alone, which can masquerade comfortably as any part of speech the user chooses.
“It’s part of your emotional intelligence to know how and when to use these words. If you’re thinking about it from a moral perspective, you’re missing how common and normal it is,” Jay told Medical Daily. “Everybody knows this language.”
In conclusion, he noted, “The research has gotten a lot of attention because it confronts the prejudice against offensive language that’s been around for 300 years. Kids swear, it’s normal for people to know how to swear.”
Perhaps the advent and massive usurpation of the public’s attention by cable television, with its far laxer regulations on the use of pejoratives than had restrained traditional broadcasts.
When next a relative or neighbor looks at you askance after you stub a toe and shriek a string of swear words, rather than rolling your eyes, smile — and direct them to these studies proving your semantic acuity and, of course, admirable penchant for truthfulness.