Swearing is a sign of honesty so researchers are arguing.
Swearing is a sign of honesty so researchers are arguing.

Swearing and honesty go hand-in-hand

WE have scientific proof - the more you swear the more honest you are. 

It's a surprising connection. 

Certainly, swearing has crept with considerable ease into our everyday language.

It may not be something the many of the older generation do with comfort, but listen to the conversations of the younger generation and you start to notice how much swearing is an integral part of their communication.   

As a young girl, I remember distinctly being threatened by my mother with a soapy mouth wash if I used "that" word again. At that time, she got upset about damn and bloody.

Swearing was then considered coarse, low-brow, poor language, not the done thing.

But well before then we had the excitement of the 1939 movie Gone with the Wind, where one of the central characters, Rhett Butler, stated with great aplomb, "Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn".

That profanity earned him a $5000 fine.

How times have changed and so has the range of profanities on offer, the list of which I decline to share here.

The study into profanity and honesty, titled Frankly, We Do Give a Damn and published on the Stanford University website, presents two sides to this interesting discussion.

"On the one hand, profane individuals are widely perceived as violating moral and social codes, and thus deemed untrustworthy and potentially antisocial and dishonest.

"On the other hand, profane language is considered as more authentic and unfiltered, thus making its users appear more honest and genuine.

"These opposing views on profanity raise the question of whether profane individuals tend to be more or less dishonest."

The writers conclude: "We found a consistent positive relationship between profanity and honesty; profanity was associated with less lying and deception at the individual level, and with higher integrity at the society level."

So, does that mean that Billy Connolly, who regularly peppers his live performances with so many f***s that it's hard to work out what he is actually talking about, is really having an honest conversation with us?  

Or, did Donald Trump appear more honest for using swear words in some his presidential campaign speeches?

While we consider this quandary, the researchers have thrown in for good measure an interesting disclaimer as a precursor to announcing plans to conduct more research into this issue.

"The study of profanity is still very much in its infancy.

"Profanity is a much harder construct to measure and even more difficult to effectively elicit or manipulate, whether it is in the lab or in the field.

"The relatively low use rates of profanity decrease even further when people know that they are observed or that their behaviour is studied.

"Therefore, to be able to gain an understanding of profanity use, it is important that the behaviour observed is genuine and in naturalistic settings."

So, as I loudly express my unfiltered feelings about the driver who just stole a supermarket carpark spot from me, can I claim my swearing is justified because I am an honest person?

Hmm. Let me try it and I can let you know how I go, or not.  


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