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
This was delightful! Can’t wait to see if my poll guess was correct!
This is great…I wonder if women will lead more to asshole(s) and men towards Fuck (you)(me)…
And…this is the first/best explination on how/why swearing is a good thing to do! In addition, there are some experiences impossible to truely describe/express without using these words.
I think it refers to testicles. A bullock is a castrated Bull. That wasn’t on the list.
Aha! That makes sense. I’ve heard the term before but never really stopped to think what it meant. Like “Balls!”
Long time no see girl! We’ve got to get together again sometime…maybe in April?
‘Cheeks’?! Is that swearing? lol.
Given the amount of swearing and foul mouthedness I practice every waking minute, I should be pain free for the rest of my life.
Shit is the word I’m using at the moment ( a lot) as I seem to be getting more and more clumsy just lately, but I’m tempering that a bit by saying it in German “scheisse!” and in a comedy German voice…
I tend to stick with the usual culprits myself, but my SON…now, he’s a master. He worked in commercial kitchens for years as a line cook and can lift obscenity to Olympic heights of creativity. I’m horrified and delighted at the same time…
Oh, I have bouts of incredible potty mouth. I realize how bad it is when I look up and see startled faces around me. But my mother had the right idea. The only German I heard as a child were German swear words/phrases and to this day, that is the only German I am fluent in. To the delight of my relatives, I’m capable of rattling of a string of swear words with perfect pronunciation. To bad I can’t apply that great tonality to the rest of my attempts to speak German.
I LOVE swearing in other languages! I’ve got a phrase in Spanish that’s killer. 🙂
and it is….?
I never swore until I was a teenager and worked in a show horse barn. The first time you get your foot seriously stepped on by a huge horse that won’t move off it, “Oh Golly” just does not suffice. When my son was 18 months old, he spoke very clearly. One day my husband and I were in the car, son was sitting in his carseat in the back. A driver cut us off and husband had to hit the brakes. Son’s little voice said, “sum da bitch!” Husband, who never swore, glared at me. Yep, that was my fault.
Children!! Oh those little echoes we hear coming out of them. Aiyiyi. When my daughter was first starting to talk, the letter “f” was one of the easiest for her to pronounce, so every word that ended in “uck” sounded obscene coming out of her pure, innocent little mouth. Her brother, who was three years older and at least ten years more mischievous, used to take an unholy delight in pointing out trucks and ducks to her, asking, “What’s that little sister? What’s that?” Their father and I nipped it in the bud of course but had to chuckle when the kids were out of hearing.
I LOVE “sum da bitch!” It sounds so much like a crotchety, curmudgeonly old immigrant I used to know and love.
I always feel guiltly when I swear– my upbringing– I often say “Freak it!” instead of F—- it–Or I’ll say “God bless America” when I really mean “GD it”–feeling somewhat better about that. When I was 10 my dad, a geologist, was showing us a beautiful shiny rock with lots of “fool’s gold” in it and I said in awe “God!”– he, usuallly mild tempered, said angrily, “don’t ever say that again”. I heard him swear once, when he got the 4-wheel jeep stuck in a rut, and he said “Damn it!” Then he apologized– I usually swear when I stub my toe, or drop the keys, or in some way am extremely frustrated, usually due to my own ineptitude—but never noticed if it makes me feel physicallly better. Something to ponder….
Interesting! I wonder what makes it work in some cases and not in others? Hmmmm…