Friday, October 19, 2007

Christ on a Bike! Swearing is good for you

Research by the University of East Anglia has given swearing at work the green light. The Daily Mirror explains:

A study found workers are able to let off steam and defuse tension with a well-timed curse. And many younger staff communicate more effectively by using four letter words to express themselves. But the study found managers who swear in the workplace have a negative effect, damaging morale and making employees feel bullied.

But apparently it's bad for members of certain professions to swear, according to the report, "Clearly it is not right to swear if you are dealing with customers in a bank or if you are a doctor or nurse treating a patient". So, no mention of teachers there. Excellent! Let the swearing commence...or should I say continue?

The psychological and linguistic roots of swearing are also looked at in some detail in Steven Pinker's new book, The Stuff of Thought in which he likens it to the noises dogs make when you tread on their tails. Apparently, our brain circuitry treats swearing as very different from more eloquent forms of language - almost like a reflexive noise: a growl or a bark - which is one of the reasons why stroke victims can often utter swearwords even when other language is restricted, or Tourette's Syndrome patients use swear words almost like nervous twitches.

For those of you interested in swearing and taboo language, Geoffrey Hughes' Swearing: a Social History is a good read, while the Viz Profanisaurus Rex (reviewed on Michael Quinion's excellent World Wide Words site here) is one of the most comprehensive guides to offensive language that you could ever hope to read.

Useful for:
ENA5 - Language Change & upsetting your maiden aunt

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