Breaking News
May 26, 2018 - CRISPR-Cas9-based strategy allows researchers to precisely alter hundreds of different genes
May 26, 2018 - UT Southwestern-led researchers find new way to determine prognosis of invasive kidney cancer
May 26, 2018 - Researchers develop film to prevent bacteria from growing on dental retainers and aligners
May 26, 2018 - Mobile health intervention for people with serious mental illness as effective as clinic-based treatment
May 26, 2018 - Vaginal estradiol tablets outperform moisturizers when treating vulvovaginal problems
May 26, 2018 - Researchers call for new genetic tests for congenital diseases
May 26, 2018 - KHN’s ‘What the Health?’ Campaign promises kept, plus ‘nerd reports’
May 26, 2018 - Lung-on-a-chip technology could streamline drug-testing for pulmonary fibrosis
May 26, 2018 - Study finds early antibiotic initiation for majority of premature infants
May 26, 2018 - New environmental monitoring project finds increased numbers of deer ticks in Southern Indiana
May 26, 2018 - Pediatricians Should Advocate for Life Support Training
May 26, 2018 - Cannabidiol significantly reduces seizures in patients with severe form of epilepsy
May 26, 2018 - Allergies can have serious, far-reaching consequences on adolescents
May 26, 2018 - Scientists develop lab-based system to study mechanisms of common liver disease
May 25, 2018 - New guidelines may help pathologists to more accurately classify and diagnose invasive melanoma
May 25, 2018 - Immune cells promote lung cancer metastases by forming clots in tumors, study finds
May 25, 2018 - Can Excess Weight in Toddlers Cause Brain Drain?
May 25, 2018 - Studying insight
May 25, 2018 - Researchers reveal potent new mechanism of action for treatment of IBD
May 25, 2018 - Study shows lack of follow-up care for patients with concussion
May 25, 2018 - Study establishes the importance of haploid cells
May 25, 2018 - Coveted BMJ award bestowed on The Clatterbridge Cancer Center
May 25, 2018 - AACN outlines evidence-based protocols and clinical strategies to manage alarms
May 25, 2018 - Origami inspires researchers to develop new solution for tissue regeneration
May 25, 2018 - Melorheostosis – Genetics Home Reference
May 25, 2018 - Non-addictive pain medication changing therapy for substance use disorders
May 25, 2018 - Delayed lactate measurements in sepsis patients increase risk of in-hospital death
May 25, 2018 - Researchers identify novel epigenetic mutations as cause of neurodevelopmental, congenital disorders
May 25, 2018 - UD researchers examine connection between DNA replication in HPV and cancer
May 25, 2018 - Researchers identify neurons that play key role in aggressive behavior
May 25, 2018 - Russian researchers develop high-tech device-transformer for ultrasound examination
May 25, 2018 - Researchers discover unexpected chemosensor pathway for predator odor-evoked innate fear behaviors
May 25, 2018 - Researchers build 3-D printer that offers sweet solution to making detailed structures
May 25, 2018 - Nearly one in three people know someone addicted to opioids
May 25, 2018 - Research suggests link between faulty gene, alcohol, and heart failure
May 25, 2018 - New findings could help fine-tune treatment for cancer patients
May 25, 2018 - New cancer treatment approach targets specific sugar receptors
May 25, 2018 - Skin responsible for uptake of cancer-causing compounds during barbecuing than lungs
May 25, 2018 - Early-onset cannabis use linked to further drug abuse problems
May 25, 2018 - Covered California takes aim at hospital C-section rates
May 25, 2018 - FDA Approves Palynziq (pegvaliase-pqpz) for the Treatment of Adults with Phenylketonuria
May 25, 2018 - Arthritis Glossary
May 25, 2018 - Study links breast cancer to the body’s internal clock
May 25, 2018 - Strenuous exercise in teenage years may protect against height loss later in life
May 25, 2018 - FDA approves novel enzyme therapy for adults with rare and serious genetic disease
May 25, 2018 - New research project aims at developing effective interventions for kids with DLD
May 25, 2018 - Middlemen who save $$ on medicines — but maybe not for you
May 25, 2018 - Study sheds new light on sharp rise in fatal drug overdoses in recent years
May 25, 2018 - Students propose revision of listeriosis guidelines for safer pregnancy
May 25, 2018 - TNFi Exposure In Utero Does Not Up Serious Infection Risk
May 25, 2018 - Organization of cells in the inner ear enables the sense and sensitivity of hearing
May 25, 2018 - Yoga May Be Right Move Against Urinary Incontinence
May 25, 2018 - Drinking recommended amount of milk could protect obese children against metabolic syndrome
May 25, 2018 - New cytokine network can repair tissue damage in the intestine, study finds
May 25, 2018 - Lyme disease researcher dispels misconceptions about ticks and provides prevention tips
May 25, 2018 - Penn researchers find link between social media usage and underage drinking
May 25, 2018 - Unique nanotechnology method to simplify skin disease diagnosis
May 25, 2018 - Study reveals new protective mechanism for tumor cells in breast cancer
May 25, 2018 - FRAME Alternatives Laboratory chosen for major European liver research collaboration
May 25, 2018 - Study shows yogurt may dampen chronic inflammation linked to multiple diseases
May 25, 2018 - Invasive cancers that are born to be bad show detectable differences from harmless tumors
May 25, 2018 - Study identifies new mechanism involved in development of Lou Gehrig’s disease
May 25, 2018 - UAB professor receives award for malaria prevention study in pregnant women in Cameroon
May 25, 2018 - Study provides blueprint of how fruit flies can be used to screen potentially pathogenic human genes
May 25, 2018 - New drug-delivering nanoparticle could offer better way to treat brain tumors
May 25, 2018 - Kessler Foundation scientists compare two tests for assessing learning in individuals with MS
May 25, 2018 - Stroke Symptoms and Diagnosis (Beyond the Basics)
May 25, 2018 - Protein goes against the family to prevent cancer
May 25, 2018 - Drugmakers blamed for blocking generics have milked prices and cost U.S. billions
May 25, 2018 - Speakers announced for National Medicines Symposium 2018
May 25, 2018 - GSK Receives FDA Approval of Arnuity Ellipta for Asthma in Children From 5 Years of Age
May 25, 2018 - Pfizer settles kickback case related to copay assistance for $24m
May 25, 2018 - Nuclear pore functions are essential for T cell survival
May 25, 2018 - Study defines molecular basis to explain connection between mother’s nutrition and infant growth
May 24, 2018 - IHI hosts representatives to develop a national action plan for patient safety
May 24, 2018 - Zika detection breakthrough by University of Queensland
May 24, 2018 - FDA Alert: 95% Ethyl Alcohol Product by Ethanol Extraction: Recall
May 24, 2018 - New method allows scientists to study how HIV persists
May 24, 2018 - Study reveals rate of vertebral and non-vertebral fractures in children with leukemia
May 24, 2018 - Whey protein supplementation and physical activity aid women in improving body composition
Swearing helps us battle pain – no matter what language we curse in

Swearing helps us battle pain – no matter what language we curse in

image_pdfDownload PDFimage_print
Credit: Shutterstock

Swear words have many functions. They can be used for emphasis, for comedic effect, as a shared linguistic tool that strengthens social bonds and maintains relationships, or simply to cause offence and shock.

They are words that can be emotionally electrifying. We can express utter horror, disdain, or just frustration through the utterance of a simple four-letter word (or several). But swearing isn’t always associated with negative emotions or unpleasant events.

A study by Emma Byrne investigated how swearing on Twitter was used by fans at football games. It was, at least for those supporters, a way of succinctly and eloquently describing their experiences and personal stories.

When swearing in tweets, football fans rarely swore about an opposing team or match officials. Swearing was reserved for celebrating the dizzying triumphs or lamenting the failures of their own team. It allowed the users to intensify their positive (“fucking beauty”) or negative (“fucking painful”) thoughts and feelings.

Byrne and her colleagues found that when swearing, the authors of the tweets implicitly assumed that their readers shared and understood their context and associated feelings.

Her subsequent book concluded that swearing is actually good for you. It expresses our emotions, and makes us feel better. And as one well known experiment showed, in certain situations, swearing can even reduce pain.

For the experiment, (English speaking) participants were asked to submerge a hand in ice-cold water for as long as they could bear, with some repeating a swearword as they did so, while others uttered a neutral word instead. The swearers were able to keep their hand in the icy water for longer – 44 seconds more for males, 37 seconds more for females – and reported feeling less pain than those who did not swear.

As a student at a Japanese university in 2012, when I read about the experiment I wanted to investigate whether this would translate with native Japanese speakers. I knew that my Japanese friends didn’t have the same relationship with swearwords as I did in my mother tongue.

Language (and pain) barriers

Japanese culture values honour and respect highly – an idea which is mirrored in their language. But it is a language which is rife with colourful and creative ways to impart emphasis or insult.

Context, such as whether the person you are speaking to has higher or lower social standing than yourself, dictates the nouns and verbs used. Choosing a word that is inappropriate for the social context can have a greater impact than the actual words used when being profane. While this isn’t an equivalence of swear words in English, swearing in Japanese is just as offensive as swearing anywhere else in the world.

In British culture, swearing in response to pain – like when you stub your toe – is common behaviour. In Japanese culture, however, it would be completely out of place. Instead, Japanese people use onomatopoeia to describe and express their pain. For example, “Zuki-zuki” describes a moderate-to-severe throbbing pain and is often used to describe pain associated with migraines. By comparing the effects of swearing in response to pain in native English and Japanese speakers, I was able to investigate how the associated pain relief occurs.

As in the original, for my experiment native Japanese and British English speakers were asked to submerge a hand in ice-cold water for as long as possible. Half of the participants were asked to repeat the word “cup” in their respective language. The other half were asked to swear repeatedly.

English speakers were asked to say “fuck”, while the Japanese speakers repeated the word “kuso” – a word for faecal matter. “Kuso” is not a swear word in itself – it is not censored on TV and it would not be unusual for a child to use it. But it is a word that would be entirely inappropriate for an adult to say in front of a scientist they don’t know in a laboratory. It would be as socially taboo as saying the f-word.

Once again, the volunteers who “swore” were able to tolerate the icy-cold water for longer than participants who didn’t. The same result was true in both languages. English swearers could withstand the pain for 49% longer than English non-swearing participants. Japanese swearing participants kept their hand submerged in the icy water for 75% longer than those who didn’t swear.

This suggests that swearing is more than a social tool we can use to offend, be profane or express our emotions. It’s a powerful and timeless tool that can actually change our experiences of pain. A tool which transcends culture, a tool rooted in our biology.

Swearing in Japanese may follow slightly different rules to swearing in English. But regardless of cultural background, swearing may be beneficial to us all when we are in pain.


Explore further:
Swearing relieves both physical and social pain, study finds

Provided by:
Keele University

Tagged with:

About author

Related Articles