When you were a kid, having a dirty mouth probably got you grounded, or stuck in afterschool detention, or worse.
But according to a new study out of England’s University of Cambridge, what it should have gotten you was an award for honesty.
Bloody hell! as the Cambridge boys would say.
Yes, people who swear frequently are less likely to lie or deceive, the study found. “The relationship between profanity and dishonesty is a tricky one,” said study co-author David Stillwell, Ph.D. “Swearing is often inappropriate, but it can also be evidence that someone is telling you their honest opinion. Just as they aren’t filtering their language to be more palatable, they’re also not filtering their views.”
Researchers uncovered this by first asking 276 people to name their favorite go-to swear words. They were then given a lie-detector test and asked to relate their reasons for cursing, to reveal if they were being truthful or just trying to fabricate excuses for their coarseness. Scientists found that those who’d listed more swear words were also more likely to be telling the truth.
In the second part of the study, more than 75,000 U.S. Facebook users were surveyed on how much they cursed on social media. The most profane FB’ers also turned out to be those who most commonly used speech patterns and language related to honesty, such as the pronouns “I” and “me.”
One cool study tidbit: People in the Northeast—Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York—were more likely to curse like a sailor, while those from Southern states like South Carolina, Tennessee, Mississippi were less likely to spew profanities—meaning, the study showed, that they were actually being more dishonest.