Turns out, there’s a goddamned shitload of fun fucking facts about profanity. And you bitches ’bout to learn today.
1. Cursing is a sign you’re a fucking genius.
Research has found that, despite the stereotypes, those who are more fluent in “taboo words” also have better “general verbal fluency,” suggesting that knowing a lot of curse words means you probably know a lot more words overall. Or, to use the academic language, “A voluminous taboo lexicon may better be considered an indicator of healthy verbal abilities rather than a cover for their deficiencies.”
2. People curse a fuckton.
People love to fuck, and we also love to use the word ‘fuck’ a lot as well. ‘Fuck’ is among the 75 words most often verbalized. Online, it’s more commonly used than ‘mom,’ ‘baseball,’ ‘hot dog,’ ‘apple pie,’ and ‘Chevrolet.’ Overall, around 0.7% of all the words an average person says each day are curse words. That sounds like a small percentage but, for comparison, first-person plural pronouns like ‘we,’ ‘us,’ and ‘our’ also make up around 1% of our daily spoken words.
3. Twitter users curse more than the average person.
Researchers have found that Twitter users use profanity at roughly twice the rate of the average person. F-bombs accounted for about 35% of all profanity on Twitter, followed by ‘shit,’ ‘ass,’ and ‘bitch.’ Overall, people on Twitter use profanity to express negative emotions like sadness (22% of explicit tweets) and anger (17%). On the other hand, 7% of explicit tweets had to do with positive emotions like love.
4. Swearing is persuasive.
Multiple studies has found that, in some contexts, swearing makes speakers seem more human and credible. Another experiment tested the believability of certain statements, and found that statements with swearing were more believable because, researchers wrote, “testimonies containing swearwords were perceived as more credible than swear word-free testimonies.”
5. Kids have their four-lettered words down by the age of four.
But what about the kids? Turns out, children know a thing or two about bad words as well—even before they can conquer the alphabet. Research shows that most kids know at least one curse word by the time they’re two years old, and they start knowing even more by the time they turn three or four.
6. People who swear more are more honest.
Studies have found that people who curse a lot are more honest than others. There’s “a consistent positive relationship between profanity and honesty,” as researchers explained. “Profanity was associated with less lying and deception at the individual level, and with higher integrity at the society level.”
7. Sometimes swearing makes you look bad to others.
Even though research shows that swearing doesn’t suggest stupidity, other studies have found that people believe swearing makes someone appear to have lower social status and intelligence. Another survey found that 81% of employers thought cursing “brings the employee’s professionalism into question,” and 54% of employers said swearing at work makes you look less intelligent. Ah, c’mon, fuck that.
8. Women swear less than men overall, but they swear more when around men.
Although men curse more than women overall, women tend to cuss more when they’re around men as a way to assert themselves. Unfortunately, while swearing can make anybody look bad, women who curse face especially harsh judgment when it comes to profanity.
9. Profanity affects different parts of your brain than normal language.
For normal language, we use the outer few millimeters of our brain’s left hemisphere. On the other hand, expletives use more primal parts deep inside the right side of our brain, like the amygdala, which triggers our fight-or-flight responses. And that’s why profanity gets us riled up.
10. Swearing gets you all hot and bothered.
Swearing activates our autonomic nervous system, which controls involuntary stuff like sweating and heart rate. When people read curse words, their fingers get a lot sweatier than when they read euphemisms and other words. It’s even worse for some people: If you were punished as a kid for cussing, you’re more likely to sweat more while cursing, even as an adult.
11. Profanity relieves pain.
Holy shit, profanity gives us super powers. Well, kind of. Researchers have found that, in some contexts, swearing produces a “hypoalgesic effect,” a fancy term for reducing pain. One study found that swearing enabled people to hold their hands in ice-water (which is cold as fuck) twice as long as those who didn’t cuss. Swearing causes an emotional response, which releases endorphins and leads to an adrenaline rush, increased heart rate, and increased pain tolerance. Unfortunately, however, if you already curse a lot, swearing might not help your pain since you’ve become desensitized.
12. ‘Profanity’ comes from a Latin term meaning ‘outside the temple.’
The word ‘profanity’ comes from the Latin term ‘profanus,’ which means “unholy” or “not consecrated.”
13. ‘Shit’ has two different origins, and both are Germanic.
We shit shit. It’s a verb and a noun. Surprisingly, the noun’s origins differ from the verb’s origins. The noun comes from ‘scitte,’ an Old English word meaning “purging, diarrhea.” The verb comes from Dutch (‘schijten’) and German (‘scheissen’). That shit cray.
14. No, the origin of ‘fuck’ is not an acronym. It’s Germanic too.
You might have heard that ‘fuck’ comes from an acronym meaning “For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge” or “Fornication Under Consent of the King,” but that’s not true. ‘Fuck’ probably comes from a Germanic language, as it is related to words in Old Norse (‘fukja’: to drive), Dutch (‘fokken’: to breed, to strike, to beget), German (‘ficken’: to fuck), and Swedish that have similar meanings, both sexually or ‘to strike’ or ‘to move back and forth.’ You feel pretty fucking smart now, don’t you?
15. Scholars barely know fucking anything about profanity because of uptight assholes.
There’s a lot of stuff we may never know about profanity and its early use, which is fucking bullshit. Scholars haven’t found the word or its origins before the late 15th century. It first appeared in a dictionary in John Florio’s Worlde of Words, a 1598 Italian-English dictionary. In Florio’s dictionary, ‘fucke’ (along with ‘jape,’ ‘sard,’ ‘swive,’ and ‘occupy’) was included in the definition of ‘fottere.’ From 1795 to 1965, the taboo was so strong that no widely read English dictionary included it. ‘Fuck’ didn’t appear in the Oxford English Dictionary until 1972.
16. The earliest publication of ‘fuck’ in America was in a 1846 court case involving a man accused of having sex with a horse.
The case, heard in the Supreme Court of Missouri in 1846, involved a man who (successfully) sued for slander after he had been accused of having sex with a horse. What the fuck?
17. WHAT THE $#!%! IS THIS?
While freaking gosh-darn euphemisms replace full curse words, a lot of people simply resort to smashing their keyboards with random symbols to replace profanity. And that %#(^&^$&! is called Grawlix, a term coined by a cartoonist back in the 1960s.
18. ‘Rooster’ was invented to replace ‘cock’ when ‘cock’ started meaning ‘penis.’
Cock-fighting, of course, involves male chickens, not penises. Now, we typically call cocks (the chickens) ‘roosters.’ But why? Well, as ‘cock’ became an increasingly popular term for penis, some uptight English speakers in the late 1700s decided to clean up their cocks. Because male chickens roost, they came up with ‘rooster’ to distinguish male chickens from their male organs.
And there you fucking have it, folks.