Swearing is Good for You by Emma Byrne

Okay so first you need to know that I read anything I can get my hands on about how swearing works in the brain. So even though I didn’t know about Swearing Is Good For You: The Amazing Science of Bad Language before I got it for Christmas it was a perfect fit for me.

Second, I learned a lot of things in this book that other reading on the topic hadn’t taught me. For example, there’s an entire chapter on Tourette’s, how it works, and why it really doesn’t fit with the rest of the content of this book because cursing as part of a tic doesn’t behave like any other kind of cursing. Going into this book I had no knowledge of how Tourette’s works. Coming out, I am still a novice, but at least one with hopefully more insight and patience for my fellow humans.

I also learned a ton about how fluency in secondary languages doesn’t necessarily translate to emotional impact — unless you were learning some other aspect of emotional impact (such as the angst of being an adolescent) at the same time you were immersed in your second language. This directly impacts how and in what language you swear.

The book is barely 200 pages and covered neuroscience, pain management, Tourette’s, workplace swearing, chimpanzee swearing, gender and swearing, and swearing in other languages. It does not cover any particular case or topic in depth but rather serves as a well-written and intriguing survey of modern knowledge about the field. Considering that in most cultures the taboos around swearing extend to studying the taboos around swearing, the very presence of the book indicates both shifting cultural norms and the fact that we still have a lot to learn.

I fucking loved this book and recommend it to anyone with interests in linguistics or neuroscience or both.