Linguistic Anthropology

Why do people swear?
Answered by Discovery Channel
  • Discovery Channel

    Discovery Channel

  1. People swear for a wide variety of reasons, which vary across societies according to different circumstances. Just as children cry when they're frustrated or upset, adults need an emotional outlet -- this is often where swearing comes in. It's not an uncommon act: About 72 percent of American men and 58 percent of women admit to swearing in public [source: Golden].

    Most researchers believe that swearing is most often used to relieve stress and release tension. For example, do you ever find yourself swearing when you're late and stuck in traffic, or when you realize you've forgotten to do something important? People also swear when something painful or unexpected happens. Do you remember what came out of your mouth the last time you stubbed your toe or slammed your finger in a drawer? Swearing can serve many social functions, as well, including the following:

    • It can be used to establish group identity or membership in a group.
    • It can be used to express solidarity, trust and intimacy with other people.
    • It can be used to add emphasis or humor.
    • It can be used to hide a person's fear or insecurity.

    Sometimes people feel like they're expected to swear in a certain situation or to feel included. And for many, swearing can become a habit. This can be unfortunate when you slip up and say something you shouldn't at work or around children. And because swear words often include social taboos like profane, sexual or vulgar words, or even discriminatory slurs, they may get you into more trouble than you expect [source: Grohol].

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