swear words

Do you swear a lot? Is your vocabulary of swear words expansive? If so, you may have stronger general verbal skills than those who know few.

Knowing a wide range of swear words has been connected to having good verbal skills, which can mean communication, language and general speaking. So those who have a more colourful tongue are actually more verbally confident and articulate.

A study was recently carried out on 40 volunteers, aged between 18 and 22, who were asked to list as many swear words as they could in 60 seconds. Then it was compared to other words of a non-swearing nature, such as names of animals, to determine the verbal skills of those who were good at listing swear words.

As the authors of the study write, “We cannot help but judge others on the basis of their speech. Unfortunately, when it comes to taboo language, it is a common assumption that people who swear frequently are lazy, do not have adequate vocabulary, lack education or simply cannot control themselves. The overall finding of this set of studies, that taboo fluency is positively correlated with other measures of verbal fluency, undermines the Poverty of Vocabulary view of swearing.”

The average number of swear words found was just 9, which may seem low compared to an average of 14 non-swear words. However, this test only tests the knowledge of swear words, rather than the regular usage of swear words which as far as I’m aware, is an area yet to be explored within verbal psychology.

In this particular study, expressives were found to have been used more than slurs and very few sex-themed words were used. It was also found that the personality traits neuroticism and openness were connected to using more swear words, whereas agreeableness and conscientiousness were not.

This finding combats the old taboo that people who use swear words must have bad vocabulary skills/little education or just generally aren’t good at communicating without using slurs – who knew the truth is the complete opposite! Are you a big swearer? Let us know!


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I'm a psychology student with a passion for books, good food and movies. I can often be found reading self-help articles snuggled up in bed with a cup of coffee or writing about anything and everything in a quiet cafe somewhere.