Business Insider UK spoke to Richard Stephens, author of the book “Black Sheep: The Hidden Benefits of Being Bad” and psychologist at Keele University, about how swearing can be a helpful tool in establishing social relationships.
Here’s a transcript of the video:
How swearing can be a sign of belonging? Everyone swears in lots of different situations and for lots of different reasons. You sometimes find that people in groups would swear to each other but not necessarily to other people.
They do that because it seems to be kind of a shared code. It’s kind of odd because in that situation swearing – which is normally considered to be incredibly rude – can actually be a form of politeness.
If people didn’t swear, it would be: “What’s wrong with them?” There’s a really nice study of some soap factory workers in New Zealand. They were organised in teams and worked together for a long period of time.
Within a team, they swore at each other like nobody’s business but if they spoke to somebody outside the team the swearing completely disappeared.
It would have been if they had not sworn to one of their colleagues, they’d have been saying: “What’s wrong with them? They’re in a funny mood today.”
In that situation, swearing was almost a form of politeness.