An article which I’d love to get my hands on with the above title has it’s abstract here:
ABSTRACT—Taboo words are defined and sanctioned by institutions of power (e.g., religion, media), and prohibitions are reiterated in child-rearing practices. Native speakers acquire folk knowledge of taboo words, but it lacks the complexity that psychological science requires for an understanding of swearing. Misperceptions persist in psychological science and in society at large about how frequently people swear or what it means when they do. Public recordings of taboo words establish the commonplace occurrence of swearing (ubiquity), although frequency data are not always appreciated in laboratory research. A set of 10 words that has remained stable over the past 20 years accounts for 80% of public swearing. Swearing is positively correlated with extraversion and Type A hostility but negatively correlated with agreeableness, conscientiousness, religiosity, and sexual anxiety. The uniquely human facility for swearing evolved and persists because taboo words can communicate emotion information (anger, frustration) more readily than nontaboo words, allowing speakers to achieve a variety of personal and social goals with them (utility). A neuro-psycho-social framework is offered to unify taboo word research. Suggestions for future research are offered.
Commentary from John Grohol at PsychCentral (yeah, I don’t like the site in general, but I like this article!!)
How do we choose what word to use and when? We make choices about which word to use depending upon the company we’re in, and what our relationship is to that company, as well as the social setting. We’re more apt to use less offensive terms in mixed company or in settings where more offensive swear words might result in recrimination (such as work). For instance, people are more comfortable and are more likely to use technical terms for sexual references in mixed crowds, and to reserve the taboo words for same sex crowds or with their sexual partner. Most people feel uncomfortable saying, “Fuck” in a business or public crowd, instead falling back on less offensive words like, “Damnit.”…
….Swearing is beneficial in ways that people may underestimate or take for granted. Swearing is often cathartic — it often frees us of the feelings of anger or frustration we hold and allows expression for them. It can also be a useful substitute to physical violence (who would rather be punched out than to withstand being sworn at?).
Swear words can also be used in a more positive manner, in the form of jokes and humor, sex talk, storytelling, self-deprecation or even social commentary. Imagine when you want to emphasize how great you feel something is, a swear words emphasizes the positive feelings you have for that object, situation, person or event (”This concert is fucking awesome!”). Sure, we could just say “This concert is awesome,” but the addition of the swear word emphasizes the emotional reaction we have toward it — and easily conveys that emotional reaction to others. (emphasis mine)
I have some readers who don’t like my swearing. I frankly LOVE to swear when it’s appropriate (by my standards) And since, in part, this blog is a therapeutic process I do use the cathartic means of using expletives with some frequency.
Just for the record—I HAVE NEVER used swear words directed at people in my life with whom I’m communicating. That, I believe, is abusive.