Once I had kids I gave up swearing. I figured they would hear enough bad language at school without having to listen to me curse at home. Mostly I don’t miss it, as English is a rich and expressive language even without its four letter words. Also, too many people mistakenly believe adding swear words automatically makes anything they say funnier or more colorful. In fact, using profanity to its full comedic effect is an art (see the writings of P.J. O’ Rourke or The Onion).


That said, when I do something stupidly painful like pulling the trigger of a light 3 ½ inch 12 gauge pump gun when there is nothing more interesting than a patterning target downrange, my language turns just as blue as anyone’s.* It turns out according to this article in Scientific American that I am not swearing, I am self-medicating.

To sum up the article, researchers had participants hold their hands in very cold water. Some were instructed to repeat swear words while others repeated non-swear words. The swearing group withstood the discomfort of the water better and for a longer time than the others did. Interestingly enough, the study suggests those of us who didn’t swear much in their everyday speech realized the greatest benefit from cursing as pain relief.

*well, not everyone else swears. We used to have an Amish hired man who strongest curse really was “Oh pshaw!”

Here’s a video report on the ice water experiment: