New Year’s Resolution Help: NPR Seeks Your Alternatives To Swearing

January 1, 2018

Forget losing weight. How about a more achievable New Year’s resolution, like cutting back on swearing?

People curse for a variety of reasons, including social: they want to fit in, or seem cool or accessible. “But largely, people curse for emotional reasons, when we experience strong transcient emotions: anger, fear, surprise, elation, arousal,” said Benjamin Bergen, a professor of cognitive science at the University of California, San Diego.

One reason it can be hard for people to stop using swear words has to do with the part of the brain that kicks in during super-charged moments. Bergen says most language is processed in the cerebral cortex, but when you’re experiencing a strong emotion, the snail-shaped basal ganglia helps you decide what action to perform. For some people, it’s to use taboo words.

But how to stop?

NPR’s All Things Considered is looking for your ideas about how to curb this habit. Specifically, we need your substitutions for swear words. Do you have some go-to phrases that are just as satisfying – like “Biscuits!” “Butterball!” and “O, Columbo!”?

Send them to NPRcrowdsource@NPR.org.

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