The Curiosity Podcast

The Science of Swearing and What It Says About Our Values

Kids get grounded for swearing, and bad words are banned from television... but why is that the case if most adults swear anyway? Linguist and cognitive scientist Benjamin K. Bergen says that swearing can be funny, cathartic, and even useful! In this rated-PG episode, he explains how the science of swearing can help us understand how our brains process language, and what the worst words tell us about our culture. And the episode is squeaky clean: no swearing included! Stream or download the podcast using the player below or find the episode everywhere podcasts are found, including iTunes, Stitcher, and Gretta.

I Swear... by the Moon and the Stars in the Sky

Benjamin K. Bergen, a Professor of Cognitive Science at the University of California, San Diego, where he directs the Language and Cognition Laboratory, discusses:

  • How brains react differently to swearing, why we swear, who swears the most, and where swearing comes from in the first place.
  • The changes in perception around swearing over the last few decades in the U.S. — and what it tells us about our culture.
  • Whether parents should be concerned about swearing around their kids, and where and why kids actually learn to swear.
  • The power of the FCC and online podcast providers, and problems that arise when they address profanity on a case-by-case basis.

And nobody swears in the entire episode, so don't worry — this podcast is family friendly! Click here to follow along with a written transcript of this episode (and share clips with your friends).

Podcast Show Notes and Links

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About the Curiosity Podcast: Curiosity makes you smarter – and so will this podcast. Each week, we talk to experts who can help you get smart about the world around you, with a timely blend of cultural trends, life hacks, and developments in science and technology. You'll learn about your mind and your body, outer space and the depths of the sea, how history shaped the world into what it is today, and more. From the largest galaxies to your smallest brain cells, our curiosity will help you understand the world better.

Written by Cody Gough May 15, 2018

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