Good news has come out of Britain, for, what, the first time since Beatlemania?
Scientists there have done some research into the one of the most amazing phenomena humanity enjoys: swearing.
As it turns out, peppering your speech with curses can give you superpowers.
Psychologist Richard Stephens of Keele University started off examining cursing by putting his test subjects in an environment wrought with naughty words, by having them play video games, and then monitoring their usage.
Before the video game session, the subjects could recall an average of 7 swear words. Afterward, they could remember another one, as they averaged the ability to recall 8.
The psychologists somehow used this “research” to determine that cursing a blue streak helps us manage our emotions, allowing us to relieve some aggression in a harmless way.
But that’s boring. Relieving emotional distress isn’t a superpower; it’s just a coping mechanism. Let’s get to the juicy stuff. The stuff to make us powerful.
Using what he calls the “ice water test,” Dr. Stephens has shown that swearing can help us resist pain, giving us a boost of power over a limited time.
In the experiment, someone is given a freezing cold glass full of ice and just asked to hold it. Some were told to keep their commentary G-rated, while others were told to curse a blue streak if they felt so moved. The ones who swore were able to hold the glass longer.
Apparently Dr. Stephens was moved to try such a test when his wife was cursing to hell and back during the birth of their second child, which was something called a breach birth.
I don’t know how he equivocates giving a breach birth with holding a freezing glass, but I guess that’s why I don’t have a PhD.
And quality counts. As Dr. Stephens puts it, ‘Some words are more taboo than others – but the effects can be greater, the stronger the word.’
So when you bump your shin against the coffee table in the dark of night, you might simply call it a son of an Ikea whore to help deal with the pain. But if you were to bump your shin against the table which then spilled boiling-hot coffee on you, then you might more creatively make reference to the furniture’s carnal knowledge of mothers.
It is both encouraging and discouraging to know that how well you might fare in a fight comes down to how close to the docks you grew up.
But before you go out thinking you’re going to be the new shit-spewing superhero, there are some caveats you must know.
The most dangerous warning is that this power is also readily available to those you would be fighting . You don’t necessarily have an advantage.
You would also be giving yourself away pretty quickly. It’s not very stealthy to be shouting curses while you’re fighting crime (or committing crimes, if you bend toward the darkness).
Also, “FUUUUUUUUCK!” is a pretty lame battle cry.
More importantly, swearing is like a superpower drug. It gives you a short, artificial burst, but like any drug you develop a tolerance. That’s right, the more you use it, the less effective it is.
So go forth and use this power wisely, but sparingly.