Vulgar language: sharing is swearing

We should all be swearing more.

Sometimes there is nothing as satisfying as a truly extravagant cuss. It fills up your senses. It empowers and relaxes. The science says that it helps increase pain resistance by a third. Here are my thoughts around swearing.

Obvious disclaimer

First, don’t use slurs or hate language. There is no reason to do that; it’s hurtful and it can also be illegal depending on the situation. It perpetuates racist and patriarchal structures, and is incredibly damaging. Never do it. Second, don’t swear at children or others who can’t otherwise equally wield powerful words to defend themselves. If you think you should assert your dominance in this way, you need to go to therapy immediately. You might be abhorrent, but you also might be able to get better. Third, know your audience. We tell our kids that swear words can hurt other people’s feelings, so don’t use them around other people, and I feel that’s generally good advice. If your workplace doesn’t allow swearing, or folks there may feel excluded by blue language, avoid swearing. If your friend group applauds a good salty phrase, cuss away.

Expanding language

Swearing is great because it is a fluency expansion pack. You thought you knew good words before? Well, swearing adds another dimension to your vocabulary, and it’s a pretty exciting one. Bad words are taboo, and nothing stokes your little inner anarchist like breaking this particular taboo. While you’re exploring this new expansion pack, you may hear people (who are not as well educated as you) say that swearing means you have a poor vocabulary. Little do they know, you actually have just activated your expansion pack, and have more vocabulary ready to trip off your tongue! Indeed, studies show that people who swear actually have a bigger vocabulary than people who don’t swear. Swearing encourages creativity with language, and a better command of your personal lexicon. This is a wonderful tool to put to use.

Emphasis

A typical use of swearing is for emphasis. A well-placed swear can help you add italics to your phrase, or an underline. Who doesn’t love employing typefaces while speaking? No one, that’s who. You can also draw greater attention to what you’re saying with the surprise swear. This is emphasis, but sexy. When you make your point using particularly daring phrasing, you amp up the significance. You might use this sort of phrasing when you spot a bear in a location you wish you did not, like your kitchen, or perhaps while telling the story of your near-death experience later. This is the sort of swearing you might do in the group chat, or while trading tales over drinks. You also might use this to convince others of something (in re: the aforementioned bear).

Camaraderie

Co-swearing builds bonds. Having someone to share your swears and who is willing to tandem cuss with you is invaluable for creating a sense of community and intimacy. For many people who refrain from blaspheming in public, the people they curse with are those they consider their closest allies. Akin to letting down one’s hair, a good obscenity with someone who gets it helps to ensure they will continue to get it. It fosters togetherness and to borrow from Jason Mendoza: swearing works – anytime you have a problem and you swear, boom! Right away, you have people sympathetic to your cause.

Like a feisty pandemonium of parrots, using and developing imprecations together is a trust exercise and team building all in one (again, I’m not explicitly advocating swearing at work). You create a shared language that is a little bit naughty and a lotta bit freeing. You can toss off the restrictions of the outside world with your besties who you can cuss with most eloquently.

Humor

Swearing that is meant to be funny generally is, almost purely through being swearing (and not necessarily because it’s well-thought out). There’s a huge wealth of humor around swearing, and I strongly encourage you to discover this yourself. I want to focus on one of the funniest, most understated jokes from Arrested Development, and it is only cursing-adjacent! No one swears in the gag itself, but in order to appreciate the gag, you have to understand the expletive referenced. It’s a great use of our shared swearing colloquialism, and it’s both very clever and fairly low-brow. (And as a disclaimer, I don’t actually like the swear referenced, but I like this joke a lot.) The hinge of the below joke is that Gob has bought a boat and christened it the Seaward.

Honesty

People who let slip the dogs of swear are generally seen as more trustworthy. The assumption is that you’re speaking without a filter, and therefore what you say can be trusted. If you’re Roy Kent, you can use your everyday cursing to help demonstrate your straightforward personality. With Roy Kent, WYSIWYG, and everyone loves him for it. Be warned, though, that women who swear in the manner of men are considered to be six times more obscene (read the articles listed at the bottom for more detail). One way we can all help overcome this blatant gender discrepancy is to elevate women who curse, and encourage cursing equally regardless of gender and the associate stereotypes. Cursing is one way to chip away at the patriarchy.

Pain management / Self care

If you read the articles listed at the end of this post, you’ll see they all (or nearly all) reference a study done that found that swearing helps us manage pain about one third better. I truly wish I had read this before I had any of my children. Our pain resistance goes up, and we can improve our mood to boot. An explosive naughty word can stimulate our fight-or-fight response, and quite literally make us stronger. We just feel better, faster when using a right proper cuss. Indeed, my therapist and I swear together joyfully, and it absolutely helps. Healing can be found in foul language, and we should lean into that, especially after the couple of years we’ve all had.

Self defense

People sure love to say that the best offense is a good defense. I do agree that preparedness is essential to weathering whatever life might serve up (and am tired of the sports metaphor). I don’t want my kids to be hurt by swearing, so I think they should understand it well.

Further, as pointed out in the articles below, using physical violence isn’t acceptable. But channeling anger, hurt, rage through a loud and profound swear can actually help us mitigate those feelings. In other words, swearing is an innate part of how we can convert violence to words, and ultimately avoid violence altogether.

Thrilling conclusion

We should swear more. We’ll be happier, closer to our loved ones, better able to tolerate pain, and more likely to resolve disputes peacefully. We’ll be smarter, funnier, and more creative. Others will find us more relatable, and we’ll be thwarting part of the patriarchy. The question isn’t should you swear, it’s why wouldn’t you swear more?


Articles I reviewed, which all largely pull from the same research and same expert(s):

10 years today!

My sweet, thoughtful, smart, loving twinsies turn 10 today! Double digits! When they were just wee little twinfants, I thought this day would never come. Other moms in my multiple moms group had older kids, and it was just so unfathomable. And yet, time marches on, because here we are.

Lots of changes this year: they’re in the middle school (in 4th grade), they’re back to in-person school, they’re looking forward to getting the vaccine, and they have more responsibilities. They’re growing and changing into wonderful, fun, and funny people. An example: Earlier this year, Henry very casually mentioned that he was getting bullied at school. He assured me that he had already reported it to the teacher, and that he felt the situation would be handled. Fast forward a month and he (again, very casually) let me know that he and the bully are now tentative friends. He stayed clear of the boy for a while, then slowly began reaching out (I’m sure under his teacher’s supervision, as she is awesome). Another Henry example: he told me that his goal for the school year was to be more responsible. He sets himself goals every school year. In kindergarten, his goal was to make friends with everyone in his class. Eleanor, meanwhile keeps us laughing with her original jokes and characters. She also has been excitedly sharing her chapter books with me (I’m preparing to start the Wings of Fire series, which she has loved and read many times already). They’re mostly loving siblings to Grant, but the truth is that they’ll always be best friends with each other, and no one will ever quite measure up in the sibling department. They stay up late giggling and chitchatting (driving me to distraction sometimes), they scheme together, and they are all but joined at the hip. They think they’ll live together forever. It will be very interesting to see how the next 10 years play out for them and their relationship, but I know no matter what, they’ll stay excellent and will party on.

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Nearly 10

Yesterday we hosted a small party for the twins as they prepare to turn 10 on Monday. By prepare, I mean that they are eating lots of candy and bemoaning Roblox being down.

For their party, we invited their neighbor friends, their cousins, and they each invited one friend from school — altogether, that came to 9 kids. It was mayhem!

The party was going to be a movie party: they’d pick a movie to watch on the big TV, pop popcorn in our cute lil red popcorn maker, have snacks, and lounge in the movie room. They couldn’t pick a single movie so they ended up laughing uproariously at memes on YouTube instead.

On Friday I ordered their cake from our neighborhood grocery store, Reids. I was talking with the person in the bakery and picked “fun and festive” as their cake theme, because it sounded fine. Then I asked if they had any movie-themed decorations, since it was a movie-themed party. They said they didn’t, so I said that “fun and festive” would be great. On Saturday, Grant and I went to pick up the cake and they made it movie-themed! There was a picture of popcorn and movie tickets, and they piped a little reel in the corner with a film strip! I almost cried in the bakery right then and there. It was so unexpected and kind!

The twins loved it, and they had a blast at the party as well. It was nice to meet two of their friends from school, since we haven’t met really any kids in a few years.

Grant spent part of their birthday party at one of his classmates’ birthday parties, so he only got into a little bit of mischief (for him). He was very shy at the bday party he went to, and spent most of his time playing with me. But he participated in the piƱata and really put his back into it (since we just had one the other week at the family Halloween party). He also participated during present-opening, giving the little girl his present to open, and showing her the card he so carefully drew for her.

Today we will do some light trick-or-treating in our neighborhood, and tomorrow we will give the twins the gifts we got them. So it’s been a very celebratory couple of days, and I am very tired. But it’s all worth it! It’s strange to see the twins transitioning from little kids towards teenagerism. They’re not not innocent and childlike, but they also are increasingly savvy. It’s a wonderous and weird stage. A mix of stuffies and memes. Talks about puberty (“will it hurt?”) and the Hunger Games (“they are being really mean and should stop that”). Talks about what the cats are thinking and goofy jokes. They’re very invested in the progress of the vaccine availability, and literally jumped for joy in my office when I said the initial approval had happened. They asked how soon they could get it, then Eleanor told me how bacteriophages are used against superbugs. I just love the people they are so much, and I look forward to seeing how they navigate the next year together.

Eleanor was in charge of candles.