Richard Stephens, John Atkins, and Andrew Kingston have published a paper called “Swearing as a response to pain” (NeuroReport 20: 1056-1060) demonstrating that cursing actually does increase pain tolerance and decrease perceived pain; unfortunately, only the abstract is online free, but you can read journalistic accounts by Linda Carroll at MSNBC (focusing on “why cursing works better for women”) and by Frederik Joelving at Scientific American (focusing on the involvement of the amygdala). I wish I’d known about this when writing the introduction to my book!


  1. rootlesscosmo says

    A character in Malcolm Braly’s prison novel On the Yard has to hide a lit cigarette in his jacket pocket (no smoking in the mess hall) while a guard, who’s on to the trick, draws out their conversation. When the guard finally tires of the game and the prisoner pulls his scorched hand free, he says (as Braly transcribes it)”Mo! Ther! FUCKER!”

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