May meeting of the Thunder in your toilet! Why we are so fond of swearing

Richard Stephens teaches psychology at the UK’s Keele University, he also directs research projects on psycho-biology. He has worked for about 15 years, with neurological aspects of swearing. Stephan Draf spoke with him about the Rant.

Your employment with the Curse began with a very encouraging event …

 Yes, it was the day my first daughter was born. It was a long and difficult birth. Eventually, my wife began to swear, on a fairly rough, abusive kind, And it was with every pain and Woe to adhere to worse. I have to say that This behavior was new to me.

Your wife also?

 Oh Yes, she was afterwards very embarrassing. The midwife laughed to go and assured us that a lot of women say during labor – we – out. The woman said that would relieve the pain.

And you, as a behavioral psychologist wanted to find out whether or not Swearing can generally help people to endure pain?

We were looking for Volunteers, in this case, 67 students, and thought us a try that was painful, but not dangerous. What had to do with the subjects?

First of all, you had to call us five swear words or curses that you would probably use, if you cut with the Hammer on the Finger. Then we wanted to know from you five innocuous words with which you would be describing. We have selected each word that the test terms.

And then?

Quite simply, they had to hold a Hand in ice water for as long as it was humanly possible. And not just once, but twice. For the first Time, you should repeat the constant in the table of the word, the second Time, only the curse, or the curse word.

What were you expecting as a result?

I have of course tried to remain neutral. But you have already had the example of your wife in front of eyes.

Therefore, I must remain still a scientist. And it would theoretically have been quite understandable that the non-flucher hold out longer. After all, Swearing is considered to be very inappropriate, it is a taboo. It would therefore have been possible that the use of such words exerts an additional Stress on the subjects and you have to pull the Hand out of the water.

But that did not happen, or?

Oh no, on the contrary. The students held the Curse for almost 50 percent longer, they managed just over two minutes to hold the Hand in ice-water, the Not-Swearing was cut after one Minute and 15 seconds circuit. And not only that: During the passage with Swearing most of the subjects showed an increased heart rate and increased skin resistance – both of which are signs of fundamental brain functions were activated, which made the pain easier to endure.

You can take when Swearing just steam?

No, no, no. Cursing and puts the body in a physical stress situation, as if he was fighting the age-old program – or-flight. Adrenaline and Cortisol are released, and endorphins – all of which relieves the sensation of pain.

Could you confirm the result in another Try?

Yes. We have volunteers as long as fast on a stationary bike you ride, how you were able to re-cursing and non-cursing. In another attempt, you should press the Dynamometer with the Hand as possible. In both cases, showed: The Curse gave the subjects strength, that was quite clear.

What do you conclude?

Obviously, the success of the Curse has something to do with Aggression, because Swearing is aggressive language. We have the ice water test again later: this Time the participants had to play on a Computer. First of all, a real killer game. And the second Time, a quiet game of Golf. As the students dipped their hands into the ice water, … …was the killer players for longer. Exactly. And almost twice as long.

Swearing is pure Aggression?

Swearing is the language of existential situations. Once you have analyzed the last words of pilots before a catastrophic crash: There were only curses of the worst kind – in a life-threatening situation. I mention this to show that the employment with the Swearing is by no means trivial.


The Swearing has always been part of human culture. Very early imprecations to be found, for exampleon Thousands of Discs, the archaeologists on the Nile dug up: “May a crocodile eat You”, and wished the Egyptian citizens to each other on the neck or: “hail may Your field to destroy.” On an Egyptian tomb stone, which is now on display in Oxford, sinister wishes for someone who denied the deceased the ritual sacrifice: “May You copulate with a donkey. And then the donkey copulating with You” – then the curse extends to his wife and children and is the result of undruckbar.

The ancient Romans, in particular, the philosopher Cicero, were famous for their blasphemous culture, in the Bible, it is full of invective, such as “generation of vipers”. In the German middle ages it was the wish that “the plague and brimstone” to the neck, damn but the other more often than “Ass-kisser”. Since it helped nothing that the Saxon Dukes Friedrich Wilhelm I and Johann III, were donated in June, 1590, the “order of the Curse” in order to prevent by a monetary penalty of vile insults in the good circles. 400 years later, tried American language guardians Similar: In June 2004, the U.S. Senate passed the “Defence of Decency Act”, the cable TV stations, hefty fines threatened, should not put the take down on their channels. After the vote, however, Vice President Dick Cheney opposed each other was in the same venerable Senate building with a Senator of the opposite side and hurled him finally to a hearty “Go fuck yourself! “. No, Swearing is not trivial. It is omnipresent. It is very human.



There is an area of the brain that is the Curse responsible?

 There are too few studies to say that conclusively. But there is evidence that Cursing is not only in the language area, i.e. to the left in the brain and in the frontal lobe,. In patients whose speech center was damaged and had massive problems when you Speak, you: Swear you were fluent.

Then, yeah, Tourette’s would be Sick, interesting, and swearing uncontrollably. In fact, It has been found that these patients have damage to the basal ganglia, some of the core areas, which are located in the brain below the cerebral cortex – seems to be lost control. These areas connect but also the Amygdala to areas in which we are capable of remembering and evolutionary imprints to locate. From a neurological point of view, one can say that Swearing is an important area in the life of the people, if it activates areas in the brain that are closely linked to the Evolution. And we know the Curse since earliest Childhood.

But since it is forbidden for us!

Yes, and if we are punished for evil words remains, of course, hang. And the taboo is furnished eta. Later, we realize that you can break taboos, and begin to curse. There are numerous studies that show that even talented people can Express themselves perfectly in several languages, the Curse is still happening in the first learned language.



Is swearing allowed on all continents – the curse of researchers, the Malediktologen want to, however, have determined that it is in North American Indians and some South sea cultures a comparatively civil. When you Rant and Curse, there are regional differences: While Americans or English usually sexually swearing (“Fuck!”), it will keep the Germans rather with the foul language and screaming “shit”. Curses only work as long as you break taboos: In medieval England it took place in many cities, the street sign “Gropecunt Lane” (“grope” – “touch”, “cunt” – “cunt”), pointing to the red-light district – not a human being found something in it. Today, cunt is a crude swear word, by the way, is usually applied to men, comparable with the German “asshole”. Sometimes curses fallen out of fashion: Who would not like a German, “go to hell,” reaping most probably only a shrug of the shoulders. But some things remain: In the Arab and South-American language area, but also in Russia and Asia, will today, swear to the honor of the mother of the “son of a bitch” is an expression of it – which shows that the insult to the mother is a remaining taboo. In Persian, “May apply to God in the Beard of your father’s fart”. There the Patriarch stands in high honour, and, therefore, you can also use it in a curse. Clever behaviour of traditional Bavarian Flucher: your curse “Scratch Nickel!” is a variation of the Christian “crucifix”, just like “Zefix!” – so disguised curses do not automatically draw the wrath of God. Very nice and applicable worldwide Yiddish curses are: “May you be famous. You should name a disease after you.” Swearing is by no means trivial. It is internationally.



The Cursing across the social classes?

There is an interesting study from the University of Lancaster, for the colleagues the Curse sociologically examined: Cursing people from lower social classes more than the upper ten thousand? They found: In the bottom layer, the people are aligned more as in the middle layer. As soon as you looked at but the upper class, took the Curse back, almost to the Level of the lowest layer.

What do you conclude?

It is possible to assume: In the case of the lower classes, Aggression plays a role, also the will other wegzubeißen to get to the top. The competition to shock with curses, seems to be in it. The upper classes have already made it to the top – you don’t care if they hurt any feelings. You are swearing just because they can. But what is certain is that In all the layers is cursed, not all the same – but nowhere enough.

But children should not have to teach you anyway, or?

Now, we are raising the children, Yes, fitting in, getting along well with others – in the context, I would point out to you quite a lot of Swearing is so great. But to be honest, A bit of Rebellion, we want to see in our Small also, or? I would say, Swearing – in moderation! – must be allowed.

The Text is taken from the P. M. magazine. You can find more information here.