A bunch of bad words, right? Well, maybe not.
The more we discover about the ways of the human brain, the more we discover they might be the most important words we have. Words that could change the way we learn. Words that could alter the way we communicate. Words that could be used in the fight against anyone who has ever threatened to put soap inside our mouths.
You see, bad words aren’t so much bad as they are different. So different, in fact, that they’re stored in a completely separate part of the brain. While most good words sit in the frontal lobe of the cerebral cortex – the bad words hang out in the back of the limbic system. An area that is often referred to as “the lizard brain”. A.K.A. the part of the brain that makes you start screaming every time you walk through a spider’s web.
The limbic system is not only home to some of our favorite obscenities, but home to some of the brain’s deepest memories and most profound emotions (see: above). And now, researchers are starting to understand how cursing’s connection to this system gives it a power that other words simply don’t have. It turns out that swear words are super words – able to give us special powers in a single “bitch”.
When tied to emotion, bad words can enhance your ability to bond with your fellow human. A phenomenon explained by their gift for evoking both emotion and authenticity. In a society built on hiding one’s feelings, displaying them can help you connect with someone on a personal level. And, by adding a few curse words to the mix, you can bring authenticity and honesty to the emotions that you’re sharing.
Just ask this guy:
When tied to memory, bad words have the ability to heighten the power of every other word they touch – literally changing the electrical impulses of a person’s brain in the process. (Shocking!) It seems that almost nothing helps us retain information better than a finely placed, four-letter word. And, it’s a trend you can see starting to take hold in our culture as more and more people get their information from masters of the expletive. Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, John Oliver – all of them “foul-mouthed” – all of them proven to be better at teaching their viewers the facts than the actual news.
(Well, with the exception of NPR listeners – they want those mugs!)
The bottom line: society might be moving into a new era of communication. A world that focuses more on the effectiveness of a person’s message than the words they use to share it. It’s a world where understanding bad words helped us change it for the better.
And, that sounds pretty fucking good to me.