Perhaps one of the most interesting correlations between intelligence and language is cursing. Have you ever heard of the late comedian George Carlin? He once said, “there are 400,000 words in the English language, and there are 7 of them that you can’t say on television. What a ratio that is!” He was known for being vulgar, vile, rude, crude, and lewd, his own words, and many critics didn’t praise him for it. However, one thing that everyone can agree on is that he was a master of language and brilliant with words. He’s been called a comedic genius, but he swore a lot.
This isn’t supposed to mean that everyone who swears is secretly a genius. Many times, it can mean the opposite, but there is a connection between people who swear and their intellect that science can’t ignore. This is worthy of note since the myth is that people who swear are dumb or dimwitted. According to scientific studies, this myth not grounded in any fact.
Psychologists Kristin Jay of Marist College and Timothy Jay of the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts were able to debunk this myth through their research. Both researchers initially hypothesized that there is no correlation between swearing and intellect, as most people would typically believe.
The study was published in the journal called Language Sciences, and it may effectively rid the world of the popular myth that cursing reflects a below average intellect. Both researchers made the following conclusion, detailed in the journal.
“A voluminous taboo lexicon may better be considered an indicator of healthy verbal abilities rather than a cover for their deficiencies. People 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 or poverty of vocabulary view.”
This conclusion is supplemented with a brief look at three main observations taken from their experiments:
Taboo fluency is correlated with neuroticism and openness.
People who swear a lot often possess a rare, unique talent for self-expression.
Advanced knowledge and practice of taboo words indicates a presence of extensive verbal knowledge, per previous research on the topic.
Essentially, these observations mean that taboo words a part of language just like any other words. People who have more of a grasp on language tend to have higher intelligence levels than those who don’t. Moreover, taboo or curse words rely a great deal on slang, slurs, or hidden meanings, which means that demonstrating a keen ability to use these words would result in a higher level of intelligence rather than a lower level due to the complexity of their usage.
What’s important to note from the study is that someone who curses isn’t dumb or unintelligent like your parents might have you believe. If anything, someone who curses a lot and accurately may have a better understanding of the English language than your parents.
Words are just sounds until they’re given meanings. We have plenty of apparently acceptable substitutions for most of the commonly used curse words today, so what’s the difference?