People Who Swear Have Bigger Vocabularies Than People Who Don't

Photo: weheartit
Woman flipping the bird.

No longer will people who swear feel that they have to apologize when they've accidently dropped the F-bomb, nor will those who have a colorful vocabulary be made to feel as if they're full of anger or lacking in intelligence. Science has discovered that people who swear a lot have better vocabularies than those who don't. Hah, take that motherf*ckers!

We already know that people whose speech is loaded with cuss words make the best friendsare super-creative, and are healthier for getting their anger out. But now we know that they're smarter, too.

A new study has found that it isn't that people swear because they don't know enough other words to express themselves; they use curse words because that's their choice. They choose to use words like "assh*ole" when speaking of a mean customer, rather than saying they were disagreeable or belligerent. In fact, people who swear have a tendency to know a greater number of words than those who don't.

"We cannot help but judge others on the basis of their speech," the study reads. People often assume that when people swear frequently that not only don't they have much of a vocabulary, but that they're lazy, uneducated and have no impulse control.

For the first experiment, the researchers recruited 43 participants (30 women) between the ages of 18 and 22, and asked them to list as many swear words as they could in two minutes. Then they were asked to list animals and emotionally neutral words in another two minutes.

Any understandable American English taboo word or phrase was considered legitimate for the purposes of the experiment, and the study's subjects came up with a total of 533 taboo words including some not-wildly-known ones, such as as cum dumpster and ass pirate. The participants also had to complete some standardized verbal fluency tests, or FAS tasks.

For the second experiment, another 49 participants (this time 34 were women) in the same age range as the previous experiment had to write down as many curse words and animal names as they could, but only words that started with the letter "A." Afterward, they also had to complete some FAS talks to assess their overall language fluency.

The lead researchers, Kristin Jay and Timothy Jay of Marist College and Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, found that the ability to generate curse words wasn't an indicator of overall language poverty; they discovered that being well-versed in the taboo language corresponds with other less foul-mouthed versions of verbal giftedness. 

The study concluded, "A voluminous taboo lexicon may better be considered an indicator of healthy verbal abilities rather than a cover for their deficiencies. Speakers who use taboo words understand their general expressive content as well as nuanced distinctions indicates the presence of more linguistic knowledge."

People who swear a lot may have amazing vocabularies, but I don't think there's going to be a spelling bee with words like sh*t, f*ck, damn, or assh*le anytime soon.