Swearing may be a sign of verbal superiority, studies have shown, and may provide other possible rewards as well.
"The advantages of swearing are many," said Timothy Jay, professor emeritus of psychology at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, who has studied swearing for more than 40 years.
"The benefits of swearing have just emerged in the last two decades, as a result of a lot of research on brain and emotion, along with much better technology to study brain anatomy," Jay said.
Well-educated people with plenty of words at their disposal, a 2015 study found, were better at coming up with curse words than those who were less verbally fluent.
Participants were asked to list as many words that start with F, A or S in one minute. Another minute was devoted to coming up with curse words that start with those three letters. The study found those who came up with the most F, A and S words also produced the most swear words.
That's a sign of intelligence "to the degree that language is correlated with intelligence," said Jay, who authored the study. "People that are good at language are good at generating a swearing vocabulary."
Swearing can also be associated with social intelligence, Jay added.
"Having the strategies to know where and when it's appropriate to swear, and when it's not," Jay said, "is a social cognitive skill like picking the right clothes for the right occasion. That's a pretty sophisticated social tool."