How to Start Cursing

Three Parts:Building a Repetoire of Curse WordsKnowing When and Why to SwearAvoiding Offensive Swearing

Cursing has been around since Roman times.[1] With that type of longevity it’s safe to say that swearing serves a purpose. Psycho-linguists have noted that taboo words communicate emotional information more effectively than conventional language.[2] Swearing affects us physiologically and can even help to alleviate pain.[3]And creative cursing is just plain fun. There are plenty of reasons to start cursing. Begin by focusing on what to say, when to say it and when not to.

Part 1
Building a Repetoire of Curse Words

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    Draw up a list of curse words. Divide the list into 3 parts. Begin your list with the most powerful swears. Finish with the most benign. Although swearing is a spontaneous act, a "database" of swear words will better prepare you to swear.
    • Base your list on taboo words that registered most most deeply with you--they'll be the ones for which you have the most conviction.
    • Chances are you’ve heard plenty of curse words in your lifetime. About 7% of the words used daily by a person are swears.[4]
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    Begin your list of taboo words with the most powerful swears. Finish with the most benign. The word you found most potent? Put that on your A list. Benign? Put it on your C list.
    • Suggestions for your A List are the curse words you’ll seldom use. They’re more taboo than the others. They have the potential to be more offensive, also. So be careful how you use them.
    • Middle-of-the-road curse words are suitable for your B List. They’re less abrasive and harsh than the “top-of-the-line” curses.
    • Use “gentler” cusses for your C List. Include in this group words like hell and damn. A word like damn is fun to say and not overly offensive. It’s almost, but not quite, a non-swear. "Damn! It's raining again."
    • Practice saying the words on your list so that they won't sound awkward or forced when the time comes.
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    Base your repertoire not only on meaning but on sound. Sound conveys meaning and sometimes renders emotion clearer than a word which has a literal meaning. Think about the charge you get singing along with a chorus even if it's only a sound like, "ooooooo.”
    • Swear words tend to sound quick and harsh. The sound departs from the sound of most words in our daily language and so it enters the realm of taboo because it's heard as offensive or abrasive.[5]
    • Damn is a soft word and it hardly raises a feather.
    • Other curse words are abrupt, harsh and guttural. They work better in a heated moment. Think of them as two steps more potent than damn.
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    Break gender roles. Swearing is anti-taboo. Why be restricted? The swear most often uttered by women is "Oh My God." Men are partial to swears that are more taboo, less restrained. Men and women share an affinity for some words like hell.[6]
    • Women tend to choose more benign forms of swearing (for the most part).[7]Perhaps this is due to a double-standard for swearers. When women swear it can be seen as uncouth. More so then for men.[8]

Part 2
Knowing When and Why to Swear

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    Swear for pain. You’re activating the ‘fight or flight’ response which leads to a surge of adrenaline and an analgesic effect. A test showed that people who swear are able to hold their hands in ice-water twice as long as people who don’t.[9]
    • Use your A List for pain swears.
    • "Ouch" is nice. But something a bit stronger, harsher has a better chance releasing emotion and easing the pain.
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    Curse to take control. When you’re faced with a bad situation, swear! It can give you a sense of power and control, rather than a feeling that you’re being passive and letting things happen to you.[10]
    • Use you’re A or B List for control swears.
    • You’re fighting back when you swear. This can help confidence and self-esteem.[11] l
    • Cursing can jump-start you to take further action. Cursing is the beginning of action and can spur you to continue along the action path.[12]
    • "I'll fix this #*@&! thing if it's the last thing I do."
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    Swear to replace violence with verbal retribution. Swearing allows you to respond forcibly to other people’s offenses without resorting to physical violence. You’re resorting to verbal violence instead which is, of course, preferable (remember the ‘sticks n’ stones’ poem).[13]
    • Use your A List for this situation.
    • Channel your anger into using sharp/insulting words by swearing.[14]
    • Swearing also serves as a warning, like an animal’s growl.[15] Swearing is sort of the halfway step between doing nothing and throwing a punch.
    • "Only an #*@&! would do that."
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    Curse to get a laugh. Swearing with your friends can be fun. Exchanging curses without really meaning them is like a verbal toss n' catch. Creative curses are a release from the normal constraints we face in less friendly circumstances.[16]
    • Use A, B or C Lists for this one. Combine curses. The odder the combination, the funnier.
    • "My #*@&! head feels like a #*@&! #*@&! cantaloupe."
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    Swear to relieve tension after a close call, like an accident. You can verbalize emotion, relief, humor all at once.
    • Use your A, B or C List for this.
    • "Holy #*@&!. We almost hit that car."
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    Swear to bond with others. Swearing in a group can show that you're being your down-to-earth self. It signals that you're honest and open. It makes others comfortable around you and can help them to trust you more.[17]
    • Experiments rating the believability of court testimonies, found that believability was improved when swears were used.
    • Empathy for political speeches was improved when the speakers used mild swears.[18]
    • Use your B or C List for this.
    • "Sometimes I don't know what the hell I'm doing. But I try my damnedest, don't I?"
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    Swear softly but with feeling to add emphasis to what you're saying. It shows that something is important to you. Swearing while playing a sport, for instance, is quite common.[19]
    • Use your B or C Lists for this.
    • "I've got to get my head out of my #*@&! and start getting my serves in."
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    Curse for your health. Cursing affects our bodies. It increases circulation and elevates endorphins.
    • Cursing also has psychological benefits. It helps to establish an overall sense of calm and well-being, as long as you're not angry or out of control.[20]
    • A, B or C Lists for this one.
    • "#*@&!. I'm not going to die from this. Calm the #*@&! down!"
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    Swear for good business. You're sharing your true impressions with fellow-workers. For your professional associates, cursing is a window into your thoughts.
    • Witty uses of coarse and casual swears boosts morale and lowers stress among low-level workers, according to research.[21]
    • Research shows that the liberal use of four-letter words allowed factory workers to bond over shared frustrations and to build solidarity.[22]
    • B and C Lists for this. Less often, use the A List. And be careful to choose the right situation and the right audience!
    • "Let's get this damned thing finished and go home."

Part 3
Avoiding Offensive Swearing

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    Curse away, but not with the intent to hurt someone. When swears are directed at individuals they’re hurtful. Use them to disparage experiences and situations, not people.[23]
    • Use your vocabulary. Swearing at someone who offends you might offer relief. But it won't explain why you were offended as effectively as telling them why.[24]
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    Consider the individual who is on the receiving end. Or even in the vicinity. Don’t repeat curses that you know are particularly offensive to the individual.
    • If it’s clear that you’re aware of the individual’s sensitivity and use the curse word anyway, it could be interpreted as targeting that person. And if it is, you could be the subject of litigation.[25]
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    Avoid taboo words that have negative racial connotations. They can directly express a racist point of view that you wouldn't otherwise feel comfortable expressing.
    • The "N-word" is too taboo to use. Even if it's clear to you that you're not intending to be racist, the word is offensive to African Americans and has racist connotations. The upside to using the word is not close to the downside.
    • Many cultural groups have offensive slang terms that are used to degrade the group.[26]You might think that your intentions are to be creatively taboo. But you can't account for how the word sounds to the person you're targeting. They might have a whole history of dealing with racism and are constantly on guard for it.
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    Stay away from words that are gender-offensive. Stay away from curse words derived from body parts. Be aware of how the word will be heard. If you take a step back and ask why should a part of the body be used as a tool for insulting someone or expressing displeasure, it becomes clear just how inappropriate those taboo words are.
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    Avoid gay slurs. Again, there's really no upside to using them. In the rare case that you're certain the word will be taken as humorous and doesn't express a biased-sexual-orientation view then . . . perhaps. But gay slurs should, mainly, be avoided. [27] If the word is being used to imply inferiority, then don’t use words that represent someone’s sexual orientation.


  • If you're a teen, try not to curse in front of adults. Even if adults aren't offended, they might feel obligated to object. The spot to do it is around close friends who you know don't care about swearing.
  • Take your time learning to curse. Rushing into saying curse words could result in awkward and contrived cursing. Spontaneity is important to swearing with gusto.


  • Never curse in front of little kids/younger siblings, they will copy you.
  • Curse words change with the times. Many words which are now taboo, weren't one or two hundred years ago. And a word like "bastard" was much more profane way-back-when then it is now.[28]
  • Try not to swear at others in anger. The residue of an angry curse can be significant. It's not really worth the instant of relief or satisfaction from cursing at them.[29]

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Categories: Language Nuances