This Myth About People Who Curse Is F**king Wrong

December 17th 2015

"FUCKING FUCK SHIT." Ah, the sound of intelligence.*

If you've ever been told that using "bad words" is a sign of lower intelligence, here's a study that proves otherwise. While the stigma against swearing is alive and well, new research suggests that foul-mouthed people are more likely to have richer vocabularies than those who don't curse.

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The counterintuitive study was recently published in the journal Language Sciences, authored by researchers at Marist College and the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts. It describes two experiments used to deconstruct the "poverty-of-language" myth surrounding cursing.

First, a group of 43 participants between 18 and 22 years old were asked to come up with as many expletives as they could think of in 60 seconds; then they had do the same thing with animal names, which the researchers used as an indicator of overall verbal intelligence. In the second experiment, a second group of 49 people was asked to write out all the obscenities and animal names they could, starting with the letter "a."

The results were impressive: the participants generated more than 530 "taboo words," defying stereotypes that people who curse are less intelligent. As it happens, larger vulgar vocabularies were associated with better verbal fluency overall.

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"That is, a voluminous taboo lexicon may better be considered an indicator of healthy verbal abilities rather than a cover for their deficiencies," the researchers wrote. "Speakers who use taboo words understand their general expressive content as well as nuanced distinctions that must be drawn to use slurs appropriately. The ability to make nuanced distinctions indicates the presence of more rather than less linguistic knowledge, as implied by the POV [Poverty of Vocabulary] view."

*attempted joke, pls disregard.