You’re at school and someone has stolen your pencil. Your very last pencil. You started the year with 30, but now someone has stolen the very instrument you use to doodle with in the margins of your notes.

How dare they.

You feel the fiery red rage build up inside you.

The only way to let out your anger-without destroying the school- is out your mouth.

Now which one is more satisfying:

A: Shoot, someone stole my last pencil. I’m so furious!

B: What the f**kity f**k? Shit, some douchebag stole my last f**king pencil. That f**king bitch-hat will pay.

THE ANSWER IS B. The last choice is more satisfying to say, and more effectively conveys your rage.

Almost everyone swears (If we don’t say everyone!), and people swear quite frequently throughout their lifetime — from the moment they can speak to the day they pass. Swearing is virtually a universal constant in most people’s lives. Research, according to Jay, has shown we swear on average from 0.3% to 0.7% of the time — a tiny but significant percentage of our overall speech (frequently-used personal pronouns occur at approximately 1.0% rate in speech). Swearing is more common than you might think. But personality research suggests that people who swear more, not surprisingly, score higher on traits such as extroversion, dominance, hostility and Type A personalities. Swearing is not just for the uneducated or people of a lower socioeconomic class — it knows no social boundaries in its expression.

The following can be the main reasons as why people use expletives:

  1. Catharsis

Most of the time, swearing is an emotive reaction. When we’re frustrated, surprised or angry cursing offers an emotional release. Experiments have even shown that swearing increases the body’s ability to endure pain. To test this, researchers at Keele University in the UK had volunteers hold their hand in icy water for as long as they could stand it.

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“When participants repeated a swear word, they were able to hold their hand in ice-cold water for, on average, some 40 seconds longer compared with when they repeated a non-swear word. In addition, participants reported reduced perceived pain in the swearing condition.”

  1. Insult, abuse and exclusion

Swear words are not needed to insult someone—a simple “you’re ugly” usually gets the point across — but they do crank up the mean factor. They also act as rage concentrate: why explain to your neighbor that you hate him when “fuck you” puts that gosh darn son-of-a-gun in his place with only two words?

Please note: if you curse at people who can’t hear you (commuters in their cars, athletes on TV), you’re just letting off steam, which belongs to the previous category.

  1. Group solidarity

Among friends, swearing has a crucial social function: sharing a lexicon of words, and breaking societal taboos, bonds people together. Ritual insults among friend are not abusive, but actually a sign of belonging to the group. In this context, “f**kface”, dickhead”, “bitch” and “a**hole” can all be terms of endearment. People tend to swear more in same-sex groups of peers and when the atmosphere is relaxed. People swear the least when things are really tense.

  1. Style and emphasis

As any stand-up comedian can tell you, swear words are powerful tools. More often than not, a well-placed “fuck!” is the alchemical ingredient that turns lead into comedy gold. You can’t make a statement any more emphatic than by dropping an F-bomb where a more timid and prudent soul would use a boring old adverb. Swear words add emotion and urgency to otherwise neutral sentences.

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