It seems rare to run into someone who doesn’t swear in college. A bunch of young adults trying to figure out how not to f@$% up their lives can sometimes lead to some colorful language.
However, once they graduate, employers put some restrictions on what is and what is not appropriate to say. But why are these arguably subjective words so bad?
Benjamin K Bergin, professor of cognitive science at the University of California and author of “What the F: What Swearing Reveals About Our Language, Our Brains and Ourselves,” said it’s a social thing.
“The reason that a child thinks the F-word is a bad word is that, growing up, he or she was told that it was a bad word,” Bergen said in an interview with the “New York Times.” “So profanity is a cultural construct that perpetuates itself through time.”
Society seems to add to the idea that these words are bad, but what exactly are these bad words which shouldn’t be said?
The Federal Communications Commission made a list of seven words which aren’t allowed to be said over air. This list includes p*ss, sh!t, motherf@&%er, sh!t, c*&$%sucker, c*nt and f@&%. This list was made 40 years ago and is still in effect. To people such as Bergin and some Northwest students, the main reason these words, among others, are deemed offensive is because as a society, people have been trained to see them in such a way. Even now, in this article, the staff has to censor these words for readers who probably know and use these words regularly. Some students have a favorite swear word. Such is the case of Northwest media freshman, Simon Clark.
“My favorite words to use are f@&% and sh!t,” Clark said. A smile grew on his face as he fidgeted a bit. “Anything else is just me being a joker.”
Clark grew up in a home which was open with swearing.
“My dad works in media, so he’s really against censorship,” Clark said. “By the time I was five, I knew most of the ‘bad’ words,” Clark said. “By the time I was 12, my parents started telling me I probably shouldn’t say those words in public.”
The transition from high school to college language has been different for Clark.
“It’s so funny. I have Offutt for professional media writing, and every single day, he has something to say,” Clark said. “He can just be ranting about a movie and just lets it out. It just makes me think he’s the coolest teacher.”
While swearing is sometimes described as having low intelligence, studies are showing that swearing may be good for the mind and body. In a study done by Richard Stephens, a senior lecturer in psychology at Keele University, results showed swearing can increase the body’s pain tolerance.
“For pain relief, swearing seems to trigger the natural ‘fight or flight’ stress response, as well as increased adrenaline and heart pumping,” Stephens said in an email to the New York Times. “This leads to stress-induced analgesia being more tolerant of pain.”
It appears humans aren’t the only creatures who swear. According to research conducted by Roger Fouts in the 1960s, when potty training a chimp named Washoe and teaching Washoe sign language, he noticed how Washoe communicated with the three other chimps. The four learned the word “dirty” was bad and, when angered, called each other “dirty.”
In this day and age, many still view swearing as unprofessional. In a survey conducted by the Missourian, out of 32 participants, 71.88 percent, or 23 people believed swearing is unprofessional. However, out of these 32 people, 90.63 percent, or 29 people, were fine with swearing in their personal lives.
“If I said I never swore, that’d be a bold faced lie,” senior D’Vante Mosby said. “It’s not like one of those things where I’m like, ‘oh you swore.’ People do slip up every now and again.”
For Mosby, swearing has a time and a place, but as a role model for his niece and nephews, he watches his words.
“Personally, there are different words to describe different things. I think using a cuss word isn’t the best way to do it,” Mosby said. “As I get older and I look at my niece and nephews… I look at them the way my mom looked at me. I may use these words, but you don’t need to use them.”
While swearing is a personal choice for each person, society seems to focus on the ladies.
“F@$% people who say women shouldn’t swear,” sophomore history major Alexandria Green said.
Green is known by her friends for her fiery red hair and equally fiery language which her friends often pick up.
“One sentence I’ve said that my friends kind of started repeating is ‘I’m thicka than a Snicka, but I can still f@$% sh!t up,” Green said. “If you can’t tell, my favorite swear word is f@$%.”
While people may view swearing differently, there appears to be one thing most can agree on: people should avoid swearing on social media.
In the survey done by the Missourian, 46.88 percent of respondents said they never swear on social media as many employers have started viewing the profiles of job candidates.
“Most times, it’s their first impression of you,” Mosby said. “I can’t necessarily speak on behalf of employers ‘cause your boy is looking for a job right now, but I can speak on behalf of different coaches I’ve talked to in the recruiting process.”
Mosby said social media posts can sometimes force coaches to let go of prospective athletes.
“They really look at what’s on your page,” Mosby said. “On one hand, it seems a little judgemental because of something as small as a word, but when you’re building a company or building a program, why not get people who carry themselves in a way...carries no risk?”
Ultimately, the choice to swear is up to each individual and where their values lie. While f@$% may be the most grammatically versatile word in the English language, it is not universally versatile for every situation and person.