“Honest and sincere words come from a place of deep emotion.”
Have you ever been told you cuss too much or that you have a “potty mouth?” It turns out that may not be such a terrible thing. Society dictates that the use of profanity is disrespectful and not acceptable in general conversation. When your grandmother comes to visit you wouldn’t walk up to her and say, “Grandma! How the f*** are ya?” As taboo as swearing in the presence of others is, it may just mean that you’re a more honest person with fewer inhibitions.
Profanity has been used by peasants and emperors, kings and common folk, and presidents and prisoners alike. It goes as far back Roman times and the only difference between then and now is the culture. As the culture changes so do the words we consider to be “swear words.” In the Middle Ages, people had no problem talking about sex or using explicit excrement terms. Damn was still considered improper and impolite in the 60’ s. Today, however, the F-word would get you a shocked look from a passerby while saying “damn” would mostly go unnoticed.
Often when we use profanity, we are expressing an unfiltered feeling or emotion such as anger, pain, or frustration. When we walk down the sidewalk texting our friend and walk into a tree it is quite easy to shout, “ow! Damnit! F***.” (Yes, that happened. I don’t text and walk anymore.)
When we use curse words we are portraying a truthful emotion, and some prefer to express their intense emotion with a well-placed expletive somewhere in their sentence. I guess it depends on your audience whether you let loose with a curse word.
It’s in the Research
The research is interesting and the results fascinating, but I would like to ask the researchers who thought of the study and what prompted it. Did one of them get cussed out at the supermarket or standing in a bank line and think, “Ok buddy, tell me how you really feel?”
An international team of researchers led by Gilad Feldman of Maastricht University in the Netherlands conducted a three-part study on swearing and honesty. It was published in the Social Psychological and Personality Science journal in June 2017.
The team asked 276 people how they curse. They asked the participants to self-report their daily use of profanity as well as list their favorite curse words. They also asked the participants to jot down the emotions they associated with those curse words. So, for example, I would write down “son-of-a-bit**” with the number 7 and the emotion would be anger or frustration. I say that about 7 times a day when I am pissed at a husband, a child, the line at the grocery store or when I’m in a hurry, and whatnot.
Next, the participants were asked to complete a survey to gauge their level of honesty. This was used to gauge how likely they were to lie.
The results showed those who had a higher frequency of swearing lied less than those who used profanity occasionally. The higher the number of swear words used a day the more honest the person.
Most of the participants stated their swearing was used to express negative emotions like pain and anger.
A second study analyzed about 70,000 Facebook profiles focusing on the presence of curse words and other words indicating a person’s tendency to lie. People who lie online use fewer first and third-person pronouns such as I, me, she, he and fewer words like but, except, and exclude.
In their final study, they analyzed public records from the US State Integrity Investigation. Those public records can be found on The Center for Public Integrity. (We have a public center for integrity?)
The researchers found a “consistent positive relationship between profanity and honesty; profanity was associated with less lying and deception at the individual level, and with higher integrity and the society level.”
Should You Start Cussing?
If you have that one person in your life who is constantly swearing, you can now look at them in a new way. They may be vulgar but at least you can bet they are pretty damn honest.
Whether you should start using profanity or not is debatable. This study was conducted to examine an existing relationship between people who let curse words fly and honesty. It did not test to determine if starting to curse more often will make you more honest. What do you think? Can a person become more honest if they shout out a well-placed f-word every couple hours?