Swearing is contagious

Image from: goodmenproject.com

I was a bit surprised at the sheer amount of swearing at this year’s South by Southwest. Don’t get me wrong, I can appreciate a well placed swear word, but the overall amount was shocking.

In some panels, the speakers dropped the f bomb at least every other word. It no longer seemed to be a word used for emphasis, but more like filler as umm or like. Also, these were very intelligent people. Their vocabularies were extensive.

Imagine my surprised when my own vocabulary changed. Which got me thinking, is swearing contagious?

An article from 1986, in English Today indicates it is.

In the article, the author of The Future of Swearing, Robert Graves, says, “swearing has a definite psychological function; for after childhood, relief in tears and wailing is rightly discouraged, and groans are considered a signal of extreme weakness,” Basically, swearing is the adult equivalent of throwing a tantrum.

Swearing, according to the article is social and shows you belong. Which is likely why swearing was so pervasive at South by Southwest.

“When you join a social group, you pick up on the language of that group,” the article states. “If you don’t, you remain an outsider. And if the group uses swearing as a marker if identity, then you must swear too – and the more swear-words you use, the stronger your affirmation of solidarity with the group.”

The article continues that swearing is no longer done for shock value, they are now simply a mannerism.

Maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised at the language used in the panels and in general discussion at South by Southwest. After all, it seems we were all just trying to fit in.

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