Our modern culture has some strange taboos. While many of us are comfortable watching exceedingly adult shows like Game of Thrones or Breaking Bad, swearing at the dinner table is right out. However, if you want to bond with someone, dropping a few profanities might be a good idea.
Photo by MattysFlicks.
As Michael Adams explains in his book In Praise of Profanity, the fact that swearing is taboo means that the act of swearing can make you a little vulnerable. Think back to the first time you dropped an f-bomb with someone you just met. You probably felt a brief feeling of nervousness, wondering if they would accept it, or if they’d be offended by your language. Once you get past that moment, you’ve built a little bit of intimacy. Being comfortable with each other’s perceived indiscretions helps build bonds. As Quartz summarises:
Profanity, he argues, 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. My son understands that by swearing in front of him, his mum is reaffirming her trust in him; this is something that can be shared between the two of them, but isn’t to be repeated in school (please god.)
“Bad words,” Adams writes, “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.”
Of course, swearing isn’t always appropriate and sometimes you need to cut it out. If you’re at a business event, visiting your significant other’s family, or at a formal gathering you might want to leave out your more colourful language. For more intimate outings — and if everyone in the room is comfortable with it — it might be ok to let your words flow more freely.