In times of crisis, nothing quite beats a good effin’ swear word.
Although the art is better received in polite company these days since Carlin’s seminal bit from 1972, if you jam your toe at grandma’s house, darn it, it will have to suffice. But what if you could nakedly confirm that your grandparents were priggish with science?
Well a new study from Keele University in the UK has done just that, proving that dropping an “f” bomb or two actually increases an individual’s tolerance to pain.
“We’ve done research before that shows swearing does seem to help with pain,” explained Dr. Richard Stephens, director of psychology at Keele University. “Swearing is setting off a natural pain-relieving phenomenon called stress-induced analgesia.”
To test this hypothesis the Keele University researchers teamed up with an agency coined The Swear Lab to invent two entirely new swear words.
“I instantly liked ‘twizpipe’ as it had a lovely Roald Dahl quality to it,” Dr. Stephens said in a media release.
On the other hand, Olly Robertson, Ph.D. Candidate and author on the new paper preferred “fouch,” “because it felt rather satisfying to say.”
The word solid was chosen as a neutral condition for comparison and the order of the words was randomized, to make sure the results would not be skewed in one direction or another.
F, the best
Ninety-two study participants were subsequently asked to hold their hands in an ice bath while the researchers measured their pain threshold— which refers to the point beyond which a stimulus causes affliction.
Pain tolerance was independently determined by how long each participant was able to keep their hands in the freezing water.
The subjects endured the challenge four times, repeating one of the test words during each trial.
The F word proved to be the most potent neutralizer.
When the study participants repeated it, they concurrently evidenced increases in their pain threshold and their pain tolerance. Conversely, when the respondents repeated the newly introduced “twizpipe” or “fouch,” they often laughed but demonstrated no decrease in either condition.
This isn’t the first time Keele University has elevated swearing as a mitigating force against provisional discomfort. Back in 2009, the team posited that volunteers who cursed at will could endure pain nearly 50% longer than those who did not.
More than confirming the hypoalgesic impact of indecent words, academics of all places have also contributed a fair share of handsome findings to its intellectual merit, with a study by psychologists from Marist College establishing a link between how fluent a person is in the English language and their penchant for profanity.
The latest research funded by Nurofen is unique in that it’s the first to rule out distraction as the mediator of pain relief attributed to swearing. It appears to be that obscenities themselves alleviate pain by inducing emotional arousal.
“For me, the research was exciting because it exemplifies what we try to do in the Swear Lab,” said Robertson. “We want to explore — and understand — the magic of a seemingly mundane behavior: a behavior which actually holds a lot of social and psychological power.”
Keele University intends to conduct more research on the healing properties of effin’ and jeffin.’
CW Headley is a reporter for the Ladders and can be reached at email@example.com