If you want to be friends with someone, swear at them.
Would you attest to this statement? How would your best friend, teacher, mom or child react to this? Would it be a good idea? Yes, says writer Noah Berlatsky in a Quartz article. “Profanity is pretty f**king good for us, actually,” he says, adding, “My wife swears deliberately, outraging my sensibilities and causing my son to dissolve into delighted giggles. In fact, when I asked my son if there was one example of her foul-mouthed expletives which particularly stuck out, he cheerfully shook his head. ‘It happens so often that I can’t remember a particular instance!’ he told me.”
But before you get all bent out of shape and start talking about respect and manners, let’s begin with a quote from New York magazine. “Swearing is a lot like humour: Both carry social risk and skewer taboos (probably why so many good jokes incorporate swears). A good, hearty swear between teacher and student, or among family is not dissimilar from how friends talk shit as a way of bonding,” writes Drake Baer.
All this is good in a western society, you may think, where lines of discipline and family are much more blurred. But what do our experts think? Says life coach Veechi Shahi, “The foundation of all friendship is truth and openness. It takes courage to express what one truly feels. How frustrating a relationship would be where the other person just smiles and says yes for everything you say.”
Swearing has many useful social functions including “bring[ing] us together. There’s an intimacy to cursing, precisely because you know that you’re not supposed to do it
Michael Adams, author
Veechi believes that swearing is a natural step in making friendships deep and meaningful. “Friendships occurr to give every individual a space to be oneself without wearing any masks. It is a necessity in this age and time for the survival of any individual who plays many roles at home and work. One needs to have a swearing friend to keep them grounded and going in this beautiful and crazy world,” she says.
Michael Adams, author of In Praise of Profanity, says, “Swearing has many useful social functions including bring[ing] us together. There’s an intimacy to cursing, precisely because you know that you’re not supposed to do it. Bad words are unexpectedly useful in fostering human relations because they carry risk. We like to get away with things and sometimes we do so with like-minded people.”
What all these people are trying to say is that there’s nothing that gets you to bond more with people and get you closer to them than a good, old-fashioned insult. Especially in the case of power dynamics like parent-child and student-teacher relationships, it exposes your vulnerability and endears you to them.
And as anthropologist Daniel Hruschka states in his book Friendship: Development, Ecology, and Evolution of a Relationship (Origins of Human Behavior and Culture), “It happens all over the world. Men in Papua New Guinea greet each other by saying they’d like to eat one another’s intestines and, in the Bozo tribe of West Africa, friends demonstrate their love by making lewd comments about the genitals of one another’s parents.”
However, as Stephanie Sprenger argues in her blog post , there is a fine line for everything. “Excessive profanity can make a person seem unintelligent. I too have flinched when reading a blog post speckled with gratuitous ‘f*** this’ and ‘f*** that’. There is a line, and expletive use can cross the line from being an effective form of expression to a tasteless display of ignorance very easily.”
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