OpEd: Cursing and Swearing – Are they really signs of intelligence?

Curse: utter offensive words in anger or annoyance.

Swear: the use of offensive language.

Both of these definitions fall under the umbrella of Profanity: blasphemous or obscene language.

I have been told that use of Profanity is a sign of intelligence, but my own research has shown this to be false. According to a study conducted by Yale University and the paper later published called The Relationship Between Profanity and Intelligence:

“ABSTRACT. Profanity and censorship are prevalent in our culture. Many negative opinions about
cursing exist, but there is little actually known about how harmful it can be. The purpose of this
experiment was to see if cursing is correlated with intelligence. The hypothesis is that there will
be no relationship between cursing and intelligence. A 28 question survey that assessed cursing
frequency was given to 46 college enrolled participants. After the survey, the participants were
asked to complete the Wonderlic Personnel Test in order to assess their Intelligence Quotient.
After running a linear regression analysis between the factors in the survey and the IQ scores, no
statistically significant relationship was found between cursing and intelligence. There was a statistically significant correlation found between IQ score and whether or not the participant reported that he or she attempts to expand his or her vocabulary. These findings show that although
cursing may not be socially desirable, it is not a predictor of intelligence or the lack thereof. It
was shown that vocabulary and the desire to expand it may play a large role in intelligence. This
should be emphasized in scholastic environments, especially for children before the age of three.
Developing an extensive vocabulary as soon as possible seems to lead to higher intelligence….”

I have always believed profanity is a lazy person’s way of speaking. It was originally used to shock people into silence thus allowing the person speaking to “win” the argument or whatever. Most people use certain profane phrases out of habit and as a knee jerk response when someone makes them mad or whatever.

In the olden days, like the Middle Ages, being profane was actually a sign of intelligence because you had to have a decent vocabulary, and some wit, to properly “curse” someone.

Latin words were translated and used by those with an education while common folks with limited educations would use profanity of a more religious nature. ‘By God’s Body!” was a popular one and was later changed to “By Jove” to make it more acceptable.

Monty Python did some tongue and cheek “swearing” by saying: “Your mom is a hamster, and your father smells of elderberries!” I first heard this as a preteen and didn’t know what people thought it was so funny until an older friend translated : “Your mother is a whore, and your father is a drunk.” Very witty and got past the censors of the time.

I enjoy reading passages where a person spends a few minutes insulting a person:

You bloody pox ridden, pustule covered, flea bitten, mangy, foul smelling, ignorant son of a three-legged ram!” or some such. That kind of insult takes a bit to pull off so a big vocabulary is a must.

Nowadays, big vocabularies mean insulting someone using technical terms for bodily functions as well as scientific names for things and doing things usually ends up with the receiver of such an insult having no idea how burned they are.

While there are many benefits to swearing and using the F word, using it as part of a normal conversation is not a sign of intelligence imho. Using it every other word is plain stupid and shows a serious lack of creativity at the very least. When someone uses profanity in regular conversation, I stop listening to what they have to say because it’s not going to be anything interesting or important – not to me.

When angry, swearing is very cathartic and thus, is useful. Swearing just to do so isn’t.

End of my op ed. Tell me what you think – I promise I won’t use any profanity. I am just trying to get a feel of what others think.

See you on the flipside and don’t forget your towel and sonic screwdriver!


2 thoughts on “OpEd: Cursing and Swearing – Are they really signs of intelligence?

  1. Bravo. Agree with your thoughts exactly. I don’t see high intelligence in people who curse all the time and its a big turn off to me. Not that I am a prude, I don’t think, But as you mentioned makes an uninteresting conversation. I do excuse cursing in extreme situations where a person, myself included, are venting from an extreme event.


  2. Venting usually requires some colorful language, and it’s been proven to be quite cathartic. In fact, yelling from time to time just to yell has been proven to help release pent up tension a person doesn’t even realize they have. I suffer from stress and don’t even realize I’m feeling stressed most of the time. When things get very bad, the wall around my heart becomes inflamed, and it hurts a lot.

    I think swearing as a sign of intelligence was once true but no longer because everyone has some education and a decent vocabulary. I think swearing should become a test of creativity again – creativity and wit and cleverness. 🙂


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