The Curse of Intelligence: Those Who Swear Have a Richer Vocabulary
It is a common belief that individuals with a vast and varied vocabulary do not resort to the use of profanity. It is believed that cursing is a sign of limited intelligence, an indication that someone is unable to express themselves adequately. However, a recent study has uncovered that this perception is wrong. In actuality, the opposite is true, and those who curse may be smarter than their non-swearing counterparts.
Published in the November issue of Language Sciences, the study has revealed that individuals who have an extensive vocabulary of obscenities and profanity may have higher levels of language fluency and greater overall verbal abilities.
To test their theory, researchers undertook two separate experiments. For the first, they enlisted 43 participants between the ages of 18 and 22. Each participant was asked to rattle off as many swear or taboo words as they could within 60 seconds. Next, they were asked to recite as many animal names from memory as they could within the same time. Animal names, in this case, were used as a standard indicator of broad vocabulary and interest in language and words.
The participants then underwent FAS tasks, a standardized verbal fluency test. These tests combined challenges, including letter-specific challenges and those that required the participants to create as many words as possible from different categories.
The second experiment relied on 49 participants of a similar age group, and they were tasked with writing down curse words and animal names, starting with the letter “A,” within a given time frame of 60 seconds. Once again, they completed FAS tasks to test their overall language fluency.
The results of both experiments proved to be clear: participants who were able to generate greater quantities of taboo and animal words exhibited higher levels of language fluency and vocabulary and more fluent expressional ability.
These findings challenge the long-held stereotypes that people swear as a result of limited intelligence or an inability to articulate adequately. In contrast, this study suggests that individuals who are able to utilize profanity and taboo words within a meaningful context may have a more robust vocabulary and understanding of language than their non-swearing equivalents.
Kristin Jay and Timothy Jay, the psychologists who conducted the study, concluded that individuals who can use a range of taboo language and curse words often have greater control over the expression of a nuanced meaning of context. This implies that these individuals have more extensive lexicons and ease of access to appropriate language skills in every scenario.
Verbal intelligence is a significant professional advantage for anyone, and it is a skill that is utilized every day in our lives. The language fluency and vocabulary of an individual are often the deciding factor in making or breaking that essential job interview or presentation. Though a richer vocabulary and a fluent expressional ability can be an essential tool, this does not mean that individuals should toss about foul language without any thought of context or situation.
The oral context has a significant impact on how language is used and the perception that is created. For instance, appropriate slang or profanity can make an individual appear more assertive or confident in front of a specific audience in a certain scenario. In contrast, the wrong choice of words can have devastating effects on the perception that others have of you.
The use of appropriate language is of vital importance in all aspects of life. A person’s intelligence is revealed through the way they expressed themselves and the language they choose. However, it is important to remember that different situations require different approaches, and that what may be appropriate in one setting may not be in another.
Ultimately, this research suggests that a rich lexicon that incorporates slang and profanity can indicate a person’s overall linguistic capacity and verbal intelligence. It reveals that the individual has a greater ability to utilize language in context and communicate nuanced meanings.
So the next time someone curses around you, take a moment to consider that individual’s understanding of language and the fluency with which they can express themselves. Profanity may have a bad reputation, but this research suggests that it can be an excellent indication of a person’s linguistic abilities and expressive capacity.