Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation
Top

Love to swear? It's merely a sign of your eloquence

ThinkstockPhotos-477530356.jpg

If you can turn the air blue without a moment's hesitation, you may be more intelligent than you’ve previously been given credit for – both in a social and scholarly context.

As well as being thought of as vulgar and inappropriate, swearing has long been associated with lower levels of intellect, as throwing a F*!& into a conversation is thought to be a substitute for a lack of a better word in the speaker's vocabulary.

But new research has demonstrated that we’ve all been a little too quick to judge.

In the Language Sciences journal, psychologists Kristen Jay and Timothy Jay outlined their most recent finding about the link between swearing, vocabulary and intelligence.

Their research indicated that there is a positive correlation between knowledge, familiarity of swear words and higher intelligence levels.

Swearing man

The researchers took the “poverty of vocabulary” concept – the theory that people swear due a lack of a wide vocabulary - and looked into its validity. Using a sample of students, they firstly asked them to name as many swear words as they could within one minute. They also asked them to recite other lists of words, such as naming as many animals as possible within the 60 second time frame.

Their findings showed that those who thought up a greater number of swear words also had a greater number of responses ready for each different subject within their vocabulary. They concluded that “fluency is fluency regardless of subject matter... The ability to generate taboo language is not an index of overall language poverty.” 

They also found that there was little difference between the sexes in both the lexicon of swear words and normal words. 

WTF on chalkboard

In the journal, the researchers wrote:

“When it comes to taboo language, it is a common assumption that people who swear frequently are lazy, do not have an adequate vocabulary, lack education, or simply cannot control themselves.

“The overall finding of this set of studies, that taboo fluency is positively correlated with other measures of verbal fluency, undermines the POV [Poverty of Vocabulary] view of swearing. That is, 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 that must be drawn to use slurs appropriately.”

So while it’s still not advisable to take up dropping F-bombs in your morning meeting, take comfort when you can think of more than one nasty swear word for the man that pushed you out the way to get on this train this morning.

Related

rexfeatures-1826686a.jpg

You can learn a language while you sleep, says new study

1-idioms of the world title.jpg

The world's wackiest and most hilarious idioms

OUT66132745_rt.jpg

Anna Kendrick on her love of swearing, Lena Dunham and being weird

class-divide.jpg

Lucy Mangan on the class divide

emoji.PNG

Emoji revealed as fastest growing language in UK

lol.jpg

No more “Lol”. These are the best ways to express laughter online

ThinkstockPhotos-488052914.jpg

The surprising new ways to spot when someone is lying

452406305.jpg

Book smart; the unexpected health benefits of being an avid reader

rexfeatures_1562630a.jpg

How to tell if you are being flirted with

Comments

More

Samantha Baines: “It’s time to leave our vaginas the hell alone”

The Call the Midwife star has her say on vaginal beauty treatments

by Kayleigh Dray
26 May 2017

Ramadan: The best places to break your fast in London

These London restaurants provide late night openings and special iftar menus

26 May 2017

10-year-old survivor’s letter to Ariana Grande is beyond beautiful

“I really hope you’re not too scared”

by Kayleigh Dray
26 May 2017

It’s official: this easy email hack is guaranteed to boost read rates

Make your emails stand out in your recipient's inbox with one simple trick

by Jasmine Andersson
26 May 2017

Fathers pay more attention to daughters than sons, new study shows

Dads are also "more emotionally engaged" with girls

by Anna Brech
26 May 2017

Men are totally devastated by this women-only Wonder Woman screening

Who knew they were such big fans of Diana Prince?

by Moya Crockett
26 May 2017

Dog breaks into studio to help reporter read the news

The internet is obsessed with this live news blooper (and for good reason)

by Kayleigh Dray
26 May 2017

“Get over yourself”: gymnast hits back at stranger who judged her arms

Alexandra Raisman responds to “rude and uncomfortable” incident

by Anna Brech
26 May 2017

Fighting for their rights: the heroic teens battling period taboos

"I wasn’t allowed to comb my hair, look in the mirror, attend school, read and write."

by Sarah Biddlecombe
25 May 2017

Twitter responds to terror threat level the only way it knows how

#BritishThreatLevels showcases the self-deprecating humour we Brits seem to love

by Amy Swales
25 May 2017