Pax Arcana

I spent yesterday afternoon erecting a vivarium to house the menagerie of zoo animals I plan to rescue from the Franklin Park Zoo. Because I’m a super tough guy, I was working with a jackhammer in one hand and a pile driver in the other, driving railroad ties through reinforced concrete like a human sewing machine made of equal parts testosterone and rocket fuel.

That went well. Then later I stubbed my toe climbing into the bubble bath to catch up on my US Weekly.

“FUCK!” I screamed.


cursingTurns out all that screaming did more than convince the neighbors that the Mets had lost the 2006 NLCS again. It also made me feel better. So says a group of British scientists, who report their findings that cursing helps manage pain. They know because they had a bunch of student volunteers stick their hands into freezing cold water. The ones who swore reported less pain and were able to keep their hands in longer:

How swearing achieves its physical effects is unclear, but the researchers speculate that brain circuitry linked to emotion is involved. Earlier studies have shown that unlike normal language, which relies on the outer few millimeters in the left hemisphere of the brain, expletives hinge on evolutionarily ancient structures buried deep inside the right half.

One such structure is the amygdala, an almond-shaped group of neurons that can trigger a fight-or-flight response in which our heart rate climbs and we become less sensitive to pain. Indeed, the students’ heart rates rose when they swore, a fact the researchers say suggests that the amygdala was activated.

Taking things one step further, I suggest that people who swear all the time do so to manage the pain of their everyday lives. Some people probably rely on cursing as a crutch to help them dampen the soul-crushing dullness and misery of their own existence. Fucking losers!

Why the #$%! Do We Swear? For Pain Relief [Sci Am]


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