Think of the most proper people you know. Most likely, these virtuous individuals don't use profanity. They're also probably not the people who you consider to be the most genuine. At least that's if you believe a study conducted by researchers who recently determined that swearing can be evidence someone is being truthful. Essentially, by not filtering their language to be polite, they're also not filtering their honest opinion.

In the study, 276 participants answered a survey which asked about the cuss words they used most often, and in what circumstances. They then were administered a test to determine if they were lying to appear more socially acceptable, or telling the truth about their language habits. It turns out, the people who admitted to swearing more were less likely to be lying.

In a second survey involving 75,000 Facebook users, the researchers measured the use of profanity in online social interactions. The users who swore the most in their posts also were more likely to write "I" and "me," pronouns which have historically been scientifically linked with transparency.

Swearing as social norm depends on where you live and work.

The Facebook participants in the study, which was published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science, were recruited from across the United States. According to their responses, geographical regions differ in how comfortable people tend to be with profanity. People in the northeastern states--including Connecticut, Delaware, New Jersey and New York--were more likely to swear. As you might expect, southerners in bible belt states including South Carolina, Arkansas, Tennessee and Mississippi were less likely to do it.

But it mostly depends on context.

Swearing in church? No. But profanity-laced grumbling to a friend or mate about a vexing situation can be therapeutic. It can also be amusing or annoying, depending on the situation. I used to know a nurse (the most trusted professional in terms of honesty and ethical standards) who consistently made me giggle by inserting unexpected F-bombs into her discourse. But I've known several men who litter every sentence they speak with so many bad words that just counting them is a feat. Typically, these folks also don't think to edit themselves around my children, which vexes me.

And swearing to impress is generally a bad idea. My husband formerly worked in construction and it used to bother him when classy female homeowners would sprinkle swear words into their conversations with him, so as to appear on his level (even though he rarely uses profanity). An electrician friend doing some work at our house recently confirmed this happens to him all the time. And it bugs the hell out of him.

Published on: Jan 20, 2017
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