Is swearing a sign of intelligence?
USA - You might have been told swearing shows a lack of intelligence or a limited vocabulary.
But experts have revealed this is not the case, and the use of profanity can in fact be a sign of a smart person.
Studies have shown those with foul mouths are more articulate and have a larger vocabulary than their peers. Benjamin Bergen, Professor of cognitive sciences at UC San Diego, says we have many misconceptions about using foul language. Professor Bergen is author of a book called ‘What the F: What Swearing Reveals About Our Language, Our Brains, and Ourselves.’ ‘It turns out that there are amazing things you can find out about how the mind works, how the brain works, people’s human sociality just by looking at profanity,’ he told CBS. Swearing could be linked to higher intelligence and a bigger vocabulary. Research in 2014 revealed people who frequently swear are more likely to have a bigger vocabulary than their clean-tongued peers. A colourful tongue does not mean the talker is lazy or uneducated, the study published in the Language Sciences journal found. Instead, those who are more confident using taboo words are more articulate in other areas. The experiment asked participants to say as many swear words as they could think of in 60 seconds. They were then asked to do the same with animals. Those who knew the most swear words were more likely to name the most animals as well, the research found. Kristin and Timothy Jay, the US-based psychologists who co-wrote the study, said it proved swearing was positively correlated with verbal fluency. They added that those who used taboo words were able to make nuanced distinctions and could use language expressively. ‘We cannot help but judge others on the basis of their speech,’ they wrote. ‘Unfortunately, when it comes to taboo language, it is a common assumption that people who swear frequently are lazy, do not have an adequate vocabulary, lack education, or simply cannot control themselves.’ In their conclusion, they added: ‘The overall finding of this set of studies, that taboo fluency is positively correlated with other measures of verbal fluency, undermines the [normal] view of swearing. ‘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.’
Professor Ben Bergen says we have many misconceptions about swearing.