For years now, the use of language that is seen as ‘taboo’ has been viewed as being ‘crass’ or ‘tasteless,’ a sign of being of a lower level of intelligence or class. We have long been told that those who resort to using this ‘offensive’ language are doing so simply because they have a poor vocabulary, lacking the ability to express themselves in any other way. Experts are now saying, however, that the exact opposite is true. Those who regularly use ‘obscene’ language are actually MORE intelligent than their peers!
A study conducted by a group of psychologists from Marist College set out to better understand the reason why people swear in order to better understand the stereotype. The researchers used two separate tests to better understand their study participants:
All participants are asked to think of as many words as they can, beginning with a specified letter of the alphabet in a 1-minute period of time. This test is designed to measure verbal fluency.
Similar to the previous test, all participants are asked to list as many different swear words as they can during a 1-minute period of time. This measures each participant’s swearing fluency.
Once both tests were completed, the researchers combined the results, comparing them to discover whether or not there were any noticeable patterns. They discovered that those who scored highest on the swearing fluency task were the same participants who scored highest on the verbal fluency task, while those who struggled with one task also struggled on the other. In other words, those who are more fluent in swearing have a better vocabulary.
The researchers wrote: “A voluminous taboo lexicon may better be considered an indicator of healthy verbal abilities rather than a cover for their deficiencies. 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, as implied by the POV [Poverty of Vocabulary] view.”
The study concluded that people who swear more often have a more defined vocabulary and are, statistically, smarter than those who don’t. Remember that the next time some accuses you of swearing too much!