Is Using Profanity Good For You?
We can define profanity as vulgar, socially unacceptable language that you don’t use in polite conversation. But its universality suggested to me that it must have a function beyond simply being forbidden. So, when writing the Miriam bat Isaac stories, I researched ancient Greek profanity to see whether the underlying taboos were the same as those in contemporary American expressions. Sure enough, the ancient Greek oaths were first about the deities, but the more offensive expressions were about defecation and sex.
I learned that there are two uses for these profane expressions. One is to emphasize the speaker’s point, either to highlight it or make it provocative. And cognitive scientists have found that swearing can increase the ability to withstand pain, such as when you bang your finger with a hammer.
To bring the characters to life in my Miriam bat Isaac stories, I had to allow some of them to swear, but being Miriam’s biographer, I wrote the words in Greek rather than English, especially oaths from kaka, kopraphagos, and pigaíneis ston eaftó sou sta archaea. Those readers who cannot make sense of these oaths from their context can find their translation in the glossary.
Still, I must warn my readers not to use these profanities when vacationing in Greece. If you stub your toe, swear in English so you can tolerate the pain but still present yourself as a polite American tourist. Likewise, if you’d like to maintain your image here as a sophisticated social being, then pick up a copy of The Deadliest Deceptions if only to study the glossary and curse in Greek. The easiest way is to click here.