A group of British scientists conducted a study on the pain-killing effects of swearing a while back. I read about it in an msnbc.com article titled Stub your toe? Say ‘Sh#!’ You’ll feel better back in…oh…wow. 2009.
Okay. A way while back.
Anyway, the scientists expected to find that swearing increased pain because of intensified focus on the sensation, but they discovered exactly the opposite. The obscene participants not only reported lower levels of pain than their non-swearing counterparts, they were able to endure the painful sensation…freezing cold water on their hand…substantially longer. Women even more so than men.
For those (like me) who wonder, the most popular obscenities fell primarily into the F and S categories. But because it was a British experiment bullocks was evidently well represented as well.
(Editor’s note: Bullocks? Is that like buttocks? Like an American shouting “Cheeks! Cheeks that hurts!” Any Brits out there who could clarify? John Gray? You’re good at this particular aspect of language.)
The researchers were reportedly surprised by their results but I wasn’t. Not at all. I still vividly remember the first swear word I ever spoke.
It was in sixth grade on the grounds of the elementary school I attended, although not during school hours. I was exploring, happily and alone, the construction site of a new, half-built cafeteria when a neighborhood kid…a male classmate I loathed…showed up and did something to enrage me. I don’t remember what it was now, but I do remember how belligerent I felt. (A common state of affairs at that age.)
I really disliked the boy. I remember him as rude and aggressive and…like me…probably inundated in a hormonal flood. Who knows? Maybe he was actually flirting with me in that confused, taunting/hopeful way young boys so often adopt in the early stages? If he was, it was unfortunate. The nuclear reaction it triggered was not the pubescent heat that ever leads to a first, exploratory kiss.
The excessive internal pressure meant that something had to give, and the weakest link in the system turned out to be the long years of parental training devoted to teaching me to control my emotions and my mouth.
The forbidden word rose from the heart of the blast and I watched it come out of my mouth, shining, brilliant red, all caps, each molten letter aimed at the shocked face in front of me.
And then? Well, to be honest I don’t remember him anymore because I was immediately swept away by the narcotic effect saying it had on me. Seriously. My body’s response was visceral.
It felt like descriptions I’ve heard of heroin. As the tidal wave of whatever-brain-chemicals-were-involved hit their waiting receptors, I felt first, a powerful physical release, and second, a sense of euphoria flowing out through my body along arterial pathways. It was amazing. Stunning. I just stood there, enraptured, turning into light.
Needless to say, I fell in love with swearing ever after. Positive feedback of that magnitude will do it. I controlled it around my parents of course, until I got a little older, and I still muzzle it around it around children, elders, and most strangers. But when I’m with those who know and love me and I get excited, I start swearing like a soldier. It’s never felt as good as it did that first time, of course, but it still makes me happy.
Has anyone else ever noticed a physiological effect from swearing, positive or negative? I’m kinda curious.
Anyway, I need practice with the polling capabilities of this theme so here’s a little game. Let’s play, name that obscenity:
If this works you should be able to click the RESULTS button to see what others are thinking. I’ll post the answer next time.
copyright Dia Osborn 2012