It’s one of those things you often hear: People swear because they don’t have the vocabulary skills to come up with better words. It’s called the “poverty-of-vocabulary” (POV) hypothesis, but is it true? PROBABLY F*CKING NOT.
Not only does cussing make robots seem funnier and pay off at the box office, but also a new study (previous studies here) confirms another benefit of dropping F-bombs on the regular: Being fluent in taboo words correlates with one’s overall verbal fluency. As Scientific American writes:
Taboo words hold a particular purpose in our lexicon that other words cannot as effectively accomplish: to deliver intense, succinct and directed emotional expression. So, those who swear frequently might just be more sophisticated in the linguistic resources they can draw from in order to make their point.
To test this, some fonzanoons at Marist College and the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts gave subjects a common test of verbal fluency — the Controlled Word Association Test (COWAT) — and also asked them to say every swear word they could remember for a minute straight. People who were the most f*cking awesome at swearing were also ace at verbal fluency.
Of course, this doesn’t necessarily mean these cussing experts are regularly peppering conversations with vulgarities. The test didn’t measure how often any test subject swears in everyday life. And correlation doesn’t equal causation yadda yadda all the f*cking disclaimers and sh*t.