Bleep! My Finger! Why Swearing Helps Ease Pain

One need not be a sailor to swear like one, and now a study suggests there's a benefit to using bad words at the right time

Illustration by Corliss Elizabeth Williams for Time

There is a certain four-letter word that evokes much emotion, is often uttered by mothers giving birth, and whose usage by humans is thought to be evolutionarily adaptive: f___!

According to a new study by British researchers, saying the F word or any other commonly used expletive can work to reduce physical pain — and it seems that people may use curse words by instinct. Indeed, as any owner of a banged shin, whacked funny bone or stubbed toe knows, dancing the agony jig — and shouting its profane theme tune — are about as automatic...