Parents are partial to the phrase, â€œlanguage, please!â€ when you utter a mild obscenity, but weâ€™ve got some science to help you rebuffÂ such uninformedÂ chiding.
While the majority of us know that a good old curse (especially post kicking our toe on a door frame) is a healthy way to release steam, a study presented last week to the British Psychological Society in Brighton has uncovered just how useful swearing can be when it comes to physical strength.
Considering previous research indeed proves that swearing increases one’s tolerance for pain, one of the studyâ€™s researchers, Dr Richard Stephens from Keele University, made the connection between explicit language, pain tolerance and physical strength.
â€œWe know from our earlier research that swearing makes people more able to tolerate pain,â€ he explained. â€œA possible reason for this is that it stimulates the bodyâ€™s sympathetic nervous system â€“ thatâ€™s the system that makes your heart pound when you are in danger.
â€œIf that is the reason, we would expect swearing to make people stronger too â€“ and that is just what we found in these experiments.â€
In the first experiment, 29 participants undertook test of anaerobic power â€“ typically characterised with a short yet intense burst of activity, in this case, on an exercise bike â€“ after both getting potty-mouthed and not. Then, 52 participants underwent a second test, by completing an isometric handgrip test, with one followed by a swearing session and another that was not.
Although the results demonstrated that participants produced both more power and a stronger grip if the activity was preceded by swearing, researchers arenâ€™t entirely sure why.
â€œBut when we measured heart rate and some other things you would expect to be affected if the sympathetic nervous system was responsible for this increase in strength, we did not find significant changes.
â€œSo quite why it is that swearing has these effects on strength and pain tolerance remains to be discovered. We have yet to understand the power of swearing fully.â€
Either way, you now have the perfect comeback for the next time your oldies try and pull you up for a bit of colourful language.