Swearing – a sign of wit and intelligence?

It might seem counterintuitive but scientists have found that swearing fluency is actually a sign of more intelligence and greater vocabulary rather than less.

As Richard Stevens, writing in The Conversation says:

… swearing appears to be a feature of language that an articulate speaker can use in order to communicate with maximum effectiveness. And actually, some uses of swearing go beyond just communication.

Most of us in the swearing community tend to use cuss words as intensifiers but virtuoso swearing can be elevated to an artform – think of the Martha Wainwright song You Bloody Motherfucking Asshole, or the almost Shakespearean cussing on the TV drama series Deadwood.

Then there’s the magnificent fictional spin doctor Malcolm Tucker in the British TV political satire The Thick of It. His response to a knock on his office door – “Come the fuck in or fuck the fuck off” – is the stuff of comedy legend.

And for intense dramatic impact using swearing, I can think of no better example than the famous scene in the ‘Old Cases’ episode of the American drama series The Wire. Detectives McNulty and Bunk visit an old scene and communicate using only the words fuck, fuck me, and motherfucker.

But don’t just take my (insert intensifier of your choice) word for it…










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