“Lalochezia” (pronounced lal-o-kee-zia) means to use vulgar or foul language to relieve stress or pain. The word is formed from two Greek roots: “Lalo-” meaning “speech” and “chesia” meaning “to defecate.”
If you stub your toe, letting it all out by swearing increases your heart rate and reduces the pain felt. Also, swearing has been found to reduce stress and anxiety, such as when driving and dealing with others who inconvenience the flow of traffic. Midwives say that swearing is a completely normal and routine part of the process of giving birth.
In several studies, scientists have found a correlation between swearing and the lessening of pain. They suggest that cursing stimulates a certain brain region, leading to decreased activity in pain regions elsewhere. But don’t overdo it. At least one study suggested that overuse of curse words may lessen this effect.
Researchers also found that swearing to emphasize a point can bolster the persuasiveness of your argument — increasing the perceived intensity of your message but without altering your credibility as a speaker.
The use of obscene or taboo language features in most human cultures and has been since writing was invented. But humans haven’t changed much since we lived in caves, so I suspect we’re been cursing ever since language was invented. It has many uses: to express emotion, to persuade, to cope with pain and, surprisingly, to be socially polite.
In a 1950s study, a psychologist counted the number of swear words used by a group of scientists on a tough field trip. The results showed that the scientists swore for two reasons. Most of it was “social” swearing, used when they were relaxed and happy, and being friendly. “Annoyance” swearing was a response to stress, but used less often.
Hearing other people swear may make us feel uneasy because we’re afraid a drama is about to unfold. Swearing links us with our more primitive, emotional selves. The fact that individuals with brain damage to key language areas can nevertheless swear, indicates that compared with regular language, swearing is a special case.
Clark Gable, as Rhett Butler, famously spoke the line: “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.” At that time, the word was still censored as profane. The maker of the film was fined for the “damn” but his guess that people would attend the film just for the excitement of hearing that word turned out to be right.
All in all, swearing should be considered a legitimate means of dealing with your issues. It beats throwing punches. The issue might punch back!